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Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, appeared on MSNBC’s “Meet the Press Daily” with host Chuck Todd to discuss former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony at today’s Intelligence Committee hearing.
A transcript of the interview follows:
“Meet the Press Daily”
June 8, 2017
TODD: Joining me now is Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins. She is a member, of course, of the Senate Intel[ligence] Committee that questioned Director Comey publicly and privately today, and as we were discussing, Senator, you got—your question got—him to admit being a leaker. Did you know that was coming?
COLLINS: I must admit that I did not know and that it came as a big surprise to me. In fact I was stunned at the revelation. When I asked the question, I wondered whom the director had shown his memos to. I did not expect him to admit that he had given them to a friend of his with the express purpose of having that friend leak it to the media in order to prompt the appointment of a special counsel, which it did.
TODD: Your reaction to that. Appropriate?
COLLINS: I don't think it was appropriate. I would argue that that was a government produced document. It was a work document. And I think it qualifies as a leak. The irony is that the former director of the F.B.I. has always been very annoyed when there are leaks. And then it turns out that he leaked a document himself.
TODD: Do you believe Director Comey was forthcoming with you guys today?
COLLINS: I do. I believe that his testimony, which was under oath, was candid, it was straightforward, it was quite thorough. He answered the questions that he could answer. There were some that got into the lane of the special counsel which he appropriately could not answer.
TODD: You went behind closed doors. Obviously there's plenty you can't share because of that. I think we’re over-classifying—that’s a whole ‘nother topic of discussion—but did he satisfactorily answer questions there? Did he get into the probe itself?
COLLINS: He answered more questions in the private closed session. But that was a very short session compared to this morning's.
COLLINS: I’m not sure, and frankly I think we would benefit from having a longer session with Mr. Comey in private.
TODD: A couple of things. Since you now have the president's personal lawyer confirming some parts of Director Comey's testimony, denying other parts, including the direct quotes which are at issue here, should Congress subpoena? Do you want to subpoena the White House for supposed tapes if they exist?
COLLINS: If the tapes exist, I believe the special counsel should have them and our committee should have them. After all, they’re two different investigations with two different purposes. Our investigation is a broad investigation into Russian attempts to influence the elections last fall—it’s a counterintelligence investigation.
TODD: Do you think it needs to be subpoenaed? Do you think you’re going to have to issue a subpoena?
COLLINS: Well, I would hope that the White House would voluntarily turn over any relevant documents or tapes. There’s a big issue as to whether the tapes even exist or whether or not that was some sort of Tweet that the President put out for whatever purpose.
TODD: Do you think the president needs to clear this up?
COLLINS: Yes, I do. I think it’s important that it be cleared up.
TODD: Look, you’ve got a he said he said here. You’re going to be put in the position of deciding who’s more credible, the former director of the F.B.I. or the President of the United States.
COLLINS: Well, it’s really going to be the special counsel's job, who will have access to more witnesses than we do…
TODD: You don’t want to make that judgement?
COLLINS: …and who’s looking at the criminal aspect of this. If you're talking about an obstruction of justice issue, that really is the job of the special counsel. But I think it is important for us to know the extent of White House involvement or the Trump campaign involvement and whether or not there was any collusion with the Russians last fall by any member of President Trump's circle.
TODD: I’ll admit, it is not clear to me whether or not former Director Comey confirmed whether there currently is now an investigation to whether the president obstructed justice. Are you clear? Is there an active investigation by the special counsel on whether the president obstructed justice? Do you feel like you know this fact?
COLLINS: I believe that Mr. Comey confirmed that as of the date that he was dismissed, on May 9th, there was no investigation of the president himself. There may well be—there undoubtedly are—investigations of people in the president's circle.
TODD: That I understand. But I’m talking about the president himself and the obstruction of justice issue. During the testimony, he implied that the special counsel was investigating whether this was obstruction of justice.
COLLINS: I think that wasn't clear. I think he said that he really couldn't opine on that, but it is something that one would expect that the special counsel would look at all the evidence.
TODD: What unanswered question do you feel like still lingers out there that really bothers you after this testimony today?
COLLINS: Well, we still don't have an answer to the basic question of whether or not members of President Trump's campaign staff collaborated with the Russians. It is pretty clear that the Russians tried to influence the election. That’s not to say they changed votes. But it is clear that they tried through a public information and disinformation campaign, the release of e-mails, paid trolls, etc. to plant false stories to influence the election. What is not clear, and what we don't know the answer to, is the very important question of whether or not any members of President Trump's campaign were involved in that effort.
TODD: All right, Senator Susan Collins, I'll leave it there. I know it’s been a long day.