Maine Sen. Angus King said Sunday that it is “premature” to rule out whether any Trump associates colluded with Russia in its interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The junior senator’s remarks follow reports on Friday that a federal grand jury approved the first charges in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the election.
President Donald Trump, who has called the investigation a “witch hunt,” took to Twitter on Friday to deny any collusion, saying, “It is now commonly agreed after many months of costly looking that there was no collusion between Russia and Trump.”
King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats and sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” there was “no basis,” as Trump asserted, to conclude there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
“It’s certainly not commonly agreed in our committee, and we’re the ones that are doing the investigation. I don’t think there’s any — I don’t think there’s any basis for — for that statement,” King said.
But Maine Sen. Susan Collins, who also sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she has seen no convincing evidence of collusion between Trump associates and Russia.
“I have not yet seen any definitive evidence of collusion. I’ve seen lots of evidence that the Russians were very active in trying to influence the election,” Collins, a Republican, said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
King said the Senate Intelligence Committee still has another six months of work before it concludes its investigation, but already he said it’s clear that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.
“All the excitement about the collusion issue, which is really important, has obscured what I believe is the larger issue, which is that our country was, is and will be under attack,” King said.
U.S. intelligence agencies concluded in January that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election to tilt it in favor of Donald Trump.
The Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday examining Russia’s use of social media to influence elections.
Collins also said Sunday that John Podesta and Debbie Wasserman Schultz should return before the Intelligence Committee to testify after recent revelations that the Hillary Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee helped fund a dossier filled with allegations about Trump’s connections to Russia.
Podesta, the Clinton campaign manager, and Wasserman Schultz, former head of the Democratic National Committee, denied to the Senate Intelligence Committee knowing who funded the dossier.
“They absolutely need to be recalled” Collins said. “It’s difficult to imagine that a campaign chairman, that the head of the DNC would not know of an expenditure of this magnitude and significance. But perhaps there’s something more going on here. But certainly it’s worth additional questioning of those two witnesses.”
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