Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Susan Collins appeared on CBS’s “Face the Nation” today with host John Dickerson.
A transcript of the interview follows:
“Face the Nation”
July 23, 2017
DICKERSON: Senator, I want to start with your former colleague, Jeff Sessions, the attorney general. The Washington Post has a story suggesting those answers he gave to you and the rest of the Intelligence Committee in the Senate may not have been complete. This is based on wiretaps, apparently has been overheard by the former Russian ambassador. What do you make of that story?
COLLINS: Well, first of all, let me say that the Intelligence Committee will follow any credible allegation as part of our investigation. I would point out that there is a big difference between an unsubstantiated leak about an alleged intercept versus sworn testimony and facts. And our focus is on sworn testimony and getting all the facts. I would note also that the Russian ambassador is our adversary and the Russians have shown themselves to be masters at misinformation. Nevertheless, this clearly is an area that we need to pursue further. The one final point that I would make is, if in fact this is a leak of an intercept, and I don't know whether or not the report is accurate, that is extremely serious. That has the potential to compromise our national security and to undermine the safety of those who are in the intelligence community.
DICKERSON: The president said this week that it was unfair for Attorney General Sessions to recuse himself and not tell the president before he hired him. Do you agree with that?
COLLINS: I don't agree with that at all. The attorney general followed the rules and guidelines of the Department of Justice. He met with career staff, and he made the right decision in recusing himself.
DICKERSON: In my conversation with the new communications director at the White House, Anthony Scaramucci, he suggested this new strategy we've seen this week, which is to raise questions about the special counsel, Mr. Scaramucci said of the president who has been critical of the special counsel, quote, “let him do it.” What’s your assessment of what the White House’s message is about the special counsel?
COLLINS: I understand how difficult and frustrating this investigation is for the president, but he should not say anything further about the special counsel, his staff, or the investigation. I know it's hard, but he needs to step back and not comment and let Bob Mueller, who is an individual with the utmost integrity, carry out the investigation and make his determination.
DICKERSON: I understand the memos from former FBI Director James Comey are with the committee. Have you looked at them?
COLLINS: We have not yet been given access to those memos. I’m very eager to see them. As you know, the FBI director memorialized his discussion with the president, particularly about his suggestion that the president directed him or implied that he should drop the investigation into Michael Flynn. So it's important that we see these memos. Having said that, I do think that it was a violation of the FBI’s old guidelines—which Mr. Comey helped to write—for himself to have leaked some of those memos to a friend of his in hopes of prompting the appointment of a special counsel.
DICKERSON: Let me switch to health care. What’s going to happen next week, and what will you be doing and what will your position be?
COLLINS: Well, it's a good question about what's going to be happening next week. It appears that we will have a vote on Tuesday, but we don’t know whether we're going to be voting on the House bill, the first version of the Senate bill, the second version of the Senate bill, a new version of the Senate bill, or a 2015 bill that would have repealed the Affordable Care Act now and then said that somehow we’ll figure out a replacement over the next two years. I don't think that's a good approach to facing legislation that affects millions of people and one-sixth of our economy.
What I would like to see us do is to go back into committee. Lamar Alexander, the Chairman of the Senate Health Committee, has already indicated his willingness to hold hearings. We could divide this issue into separate bills and take a look at the serious flaws in the Affordable Care Act, the most serious of which right now is the collapse of the insurance market in several counties throughout this country so that people who have subsidies won’t have an insurer that can sell them insurance. That would allow us to hear from expert witnesses to get input from actuaries, and governors, and advocacy groups, and health care providers and most important from members of both sides of the aisle, Republicans as well as Democrats.
DICKERSON: We just have 10 seconds left. Have you heard from the president trying to lobby you on this?
COLLINS: I’ve heard from the vice president, from the head of CMS, and from the president's chief of staff. I talked to the president very briefly at the lunch but have not had further conversations with him.
DICKERSON: Alright, we'll have to end it there. Thank you, Senator Collins,