Maine senators in the thick of Russia probe

Maine senators probe Russian election hacking

WASHINGTON (NEWS CENTER) — Following the firing of FBI Director James Comey, Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) wants a special counsel appointed for the FBI probe into possible Russian hacking of U.S. elections.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is still considering whether that's necessary.

Both of Maine's U.S senators say the Senate Intelligence Committee, on which they serve, will continue its own investigation.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is small — just 15 members, chosen not on the basis of seniority but on what they bring to the table.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) is chairman. He tells NEWS CENTER it is unusual to have two senators from one state on the panel.

"Because of the size of the committee, it's a precedent that I'm not sure has been met before or will be met again in the future. I welcome the input from both of them. They are both incredibly involved, committed."

Having King and Collins on the committee at such a pivotal moment harkens back to a constitutional crisis in 1987.

Both of Maine's senators at that time, Republican Bill Cohen and Democrat George Mitchell were chosen to investigate the Iran-Contra affair.

Thirty years later, both men say the nation is well served by Maine's current senators.

"I think it says that the leaders of the Congress, House and Senate, recognize that there has been a tradition of high-quality representation from Maine," Mitchell said.

Cohen adds "it's fortunate they are both on the Intelligence Committee."

Cohen is a former secretary of defense. He said knowing more about Donald Trump's finances could be the key to figuring out whether there were inappropriate ties to Russian operatives.

"I come down to basically three questions that need to be asked of President Trump. No. 1, what do you own? No. 2, what do you owe? And No. 3, to whom do you owe it?"

Sen. King said this is an unusually complex investigation.

"Think about things that have been investigated lately, Benghazi, that was an incident that occurred on one night. We're talking about a pattern of conduct by the Russians that goes over years, that culminated in a yearlong campaign in the United States."

Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) believes a different kind of investigation is needed.

"I think that the tentacles of this situation are such that it still requires a select committee. And I say that with all due respect to the intelligence committee."

But Sen. Collins thinks the Intelligence Committee is up to the task, with an essential addition.

"I have strongly recommended to the chairman of the committee that we hire a former prosecutor or a very experienced investigator, to help guide our staff."

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia) is ranking member of the committee and doesn't want to see a new investigation started.

"The reality is, if we were to create a new commission, an independent commission, you would actually have to pass legislation, " Sen. Warner said. "Then you would have the president make appointments, the House, the Senate– I would be afraid that you would end up with the most partisan members on both sides. And we would lose probably close to a year of the investigation."

Much of the work of the Intelligence Committee is conducted behind closed doors.

Sen. Collins hopes they will hold more public hearings, to show their progress, and inspire confidence in their conclusions.

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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