BRUNSWICK — Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said Friday she hasn’t decided whether she will vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Speaking at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station, Maine’s senior senator said that she couldn’t make a decision until after she meets with Kavanaugh one-on-one next week and hears his responses at his confirmation hearing.
“I have been studying very hard since his nomination to make sure that I’m well prepared for that. I’ve had 15 attorneys from the Congressional Research Service, who are independent nonpartisan lawyers, who have been coming in and briefing me every other day for a number of hours to talk about the issues,” said Collins, speaking at a brief news conference. “Until I’ve had that opportunity to question the judge personally on a lot of important issues and then to observe his hearing, I will refrain from making a decision.”
As a moderate Republican, Collins has been widely seen as a potential swing vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination, along with Sen. Lisa Murkoswki, R-Alaska. The two have been the focus of intense pressure from opponents – and to a lesser degree from supporters – of the 53-year-old jurist’s nomination.
Collins has repeatedly declined to tip her hand on Kavanaugh, but she has expressed her dislike of some of the most intense rhetoric around his nomination. Collins has never voted against a Supreme Court nominee, and she supported Kavanaugh’s nomination as an appeals court judge in 2006.
On other topics Friday, Collins declined to comment on the various allegations made by former Trump aide Omarosa Manigault Newman in a new book, including her unsubstantiated claim that there is a tape of the president using a racial slur, except to say that their statements have been unseemly. The president lashed out against his former aide earlier this week, calling her a “lowlife” and a “dog.”
“I don’t know what to make of the dispute between the president and his former protege,” said Collins. “I think it’s unseemly on both their parts, and that’s one that I’m just gonna stay out of. I think that our country has far more important issues that the president should be focused on and I think it was also inappropriate for her to write her book.”
Collins took issue with Trump’s retaliations against those who take public stands against him.
“It is disturbing that the president appears to seek to retaliate against those who criticize him. Criticism comes with the job for public officials, and sometimes it’s not fair. It’s often not pleasant, but it’s part of our system,” she said.
Specifically, Collins took issue with the president’s decision to revoke former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance, although she criticized Brennan’s recent behavior as well.
“Now let me make clear that I do believe that John Brennan has been far too political in his comments as a recently retired CIA director. That is not the way retired intelligence officers usually react,” said Collins. “But nevertheless, the standard for revoking a security clearance is usually that the person has disclosed some classified or highly sensitive information, and in this case I’m not aware that Mr. Brennan has done so.”
Collins’ comments came following a tour of Mölnlycke Health Care’s manufacturing facility Friday morning at Brunswick Landing. The company manufactures wound care products, many of which are used to prevent pressure ulcers.
Director of U.S. Manufacturing Jim Detert said it was a great experience to have Collins meet the company’s employees and tour the facility, which produces roughly 40 million dressings a year.
“Sen. Collins is very interested in what we’re doing just because of the sheer number of people affected,” said Detert. “She understands the problem and it was great for her to see (our facility). It was just great to let her meet our people and show how proud we are to be here.”
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speaks to reporters after a tour of Mölnlycke Health Care’s manufacturing facility at Brunswick Landing. (Nathan Strout/Times Record)