Susan Collins says Trump lawyer not a big factor in Russia probe

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U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said Sunday she does not see President Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, as a central player in the Russia probe.

Maine’s senior senator also criticized former FBI Director James Comey for not following Justice Department protocols and releasing his memoir in the middle of the ongoing investigation.

Collins, a Republican member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the panel did have one interview with Cohen in its investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. She said she is not at liberty to discuss the interview, which has not been released publicly.

But she did say, “He is not linked closely to the Russian probe.” Collins made her remarks on NBC’s “Meet the Press” with Chuck Todd.

Collins said the fact that special counsel Robert Mueller referred the investigation of possible criminal wrongdoing by Cohen – including a nondisclosure agreement payment to a porn star who claims she had an extramarital affair with Trump – back to the Justice Department shows Cohen is not a major figure in the special investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

During the wide-ranging interview, Collins repeated her support for a bill that would protect Mueller from being fired, even though she expects Trump would veto it. But she disagreed with Todd’s description of a Washington paralyzed over the Mueller probe.

“We are getting work done in other areas,” she said.

She also advised the administration to focus on the future rather than try to rescind parts of the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending package, a move floated by the Trump administration and vehemently opposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“I don’t think anyone should renege on it,” Collins said.

She reiterated her criticism of Comey, who was fired last year by Trump, for not following the Justice Department’s protocols and guidelines in the Hillary Clinton investigation, and criticized the timing of the release of his memoir, “A Higher Loyalty,” last week.

“Don’t write a book in the middle of an investigation that’s ongoing,” Collins said. “I cannot imagine why an FBI director would seek to cash in on a book when the investigation is very much alive. He should have waited.”

Collins also said she plans to vote to confirm CIA director Mike Pompeo’s nomination as secretary of state.

“I don’t agree with every word he has spoken, but he has an essential knowledge of world affairs,” she said.

Collins said she is still not sure about how she will vote on CIA deputy director Gina Haspel’s nomination to become head of the spy agency.

“We still have a lot of questions to ask her,” she said.

Collins also spoke briefly about the funeral of former first lady Barbara Bush, which she attended Saturday in Houston.

She said it was heart-warming to see “people putting away partisanship and coming together to honor a truly wonderful woman who had a huge influence on this country and my state.”

Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

[email protected]herald.com

Twitter: bquimby

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