Maine politicians are divided on how to respond to the guilty plea Tuesday by President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, who implicated the president in illegal payoffs to two women with whom Trump allegedly had affairs.

Cohen said the payoffs, or hush money, were to keep the women quiet before the 2016 election.

While at least one candidate is calling for Congress to impeach Trump and remove him from office, most are not ready to go that far.

“It does not rise to that level,” 2nd District U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin said Wednesday.

Poliquin said he is looking forward to a quick resolution of investigations into interference with the presidential race, which he called “the core matter” facing Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor tapped last year to look into allegations of improper contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

One of his challengers, though, is not content to wait.

Tiffany Bond, an independent, said that while the investigation should be completed before any decision on impeachment is made, Congress should take one step now.

“Given the nature of the allegations and the amount of information in the public, we should not seat any further Supreme Court justices at this time,” she said.

“It is incredibly inappropriate to be confirming anyone for a lifetime appointment who may have any input into the outcome of this investigation,” Bond said.

Democratic congressional contender Jared Golden, who also hopes to unseat Poliquin, said he believes “all leaders should be held accountable, and no one is above the law.”

“Voters are concerned about the culture of corruption in Washington,” Golden said.

“From the indictment of members of Congress for insider trading, the misuse of campaign funds for personal vacations, or possible campaign finance violations by the Trump campaign, voters are losing faith in our democracy,” Golden said. “Restoring that faith in our government must be a top priority.”

Golden said he voted against a 2016 effort in the Maine Legislature to impeach Gov. Paul LePage.

“At the time, I found his actions repugnant, but not a crime, and the bar for impeachment must be high,” Golden said. “As a member of Congress, I’ll use the same standard.”

U.S. Senate hopeful Eric Brakey, a Republican, said he is firmly opposed to impeachment.

“There are people in this country, like both my Democrat opponents, who decided the moment that President Trump was elected that he should be impeached,” said Brakey, who is challenging independent U.S. Sen. Angus King in the Nov. 6 election.

King is not a Democrat, though he caucuses with the Democrats. He has rarely mentioned impeachment, but in 2017 he told CNN “obstruction of justice is such a serious offense” that he agreed Congress was getting close to considering impeachment.

King’s office Wednesday said he “has confidence in the Mueller investigation and supports efforts in Congress to protect it.”

“Additionally, Sen. King believes that Mr. Cohen should appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee to share whatever information he may have in connection with Russian interference in the 2016 election,” his office said.

The Democrat in the race, Zak Ringelstein, said the plea deal with Cohen “has made it clear that the greatest threat to America is the president himself.”

“Congress needs to finally perform its constitutional duty by impeaching and removing Donald J. Trump from office,” Ringelstein said. “This is not a partisan decision, it’s a patriotic one that will preserve our republic for generations to come.”

Poliquin said, though, that Americans “must respect the judicial process. To date, these court actions do not relate to the independent investigations that have been conducted by the U.S. House, the Senate, or the core matter before the special counsel’s office, which is interference in our elections.”

“I remain focused on our national security, ensuring we protect our elections here in Maine and in the United States,” the two-term Republican said. “I look forward to a swift conclusion to all investigations into election interference to make sure that it never happens again.”

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a 1st District Democrat, focused on protecting Mueller’s probe.

Since Trump’s “personal lawyer, campaign manager and former national security adviser are all guilty of federal crimes, she said, “Congress must pass legislation to protect the Mueller investigation and be a check on the president so that he cannot abuse his power by pardoning his associates or firing those who are investigating him, his family, staff and campaign organization.”

Marty Grohman, an independent running for the U.S. House in the 1st District, said he is “troubled by the allegations and now convictions of high-level associates who have played such a key role with this administration.”

He said, however, “it’s too early to consider such dire action” as impeachment of the president.

“We need to let Bob Mueller’s investigation conclude,” Grohman said, adding that his approach will be “to make sure all the facts are on the table before making any decisions like this. And if there comes a time when I need to cast a vote, you can be certain I will make my decision based on what is right for Maine and our nation, not what any political party dictates.”

“Nothing should distract Congress from what they’ve been elected to do,” said Will Hoar, another independent in the four-way race in the 2nd District.

He said that “depending on the outcome of the Mueller investigation, the issue of impeachment could or should be revisited.”

But with the GOP in charge of both the House and Senate, “any impeachment proceedings would be nothing more than a dead-end distraction from addressing the immediate needs of the American people,” Hoar said.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, Maine’s senior senator, said Cohen’s comments Tuesday highlight “the importance of the special counsel investigation, which should be allowed to continue to its conclusion.”

In addition, she said, “it would make sense” for the Senate Intelligence Committee, on which she serves with King, “to question Mr. Cohen, who was interviewed previously.”

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Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former private attorney. (Andrew Harnik photo)


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