Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, stands in a subway car on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 9, 2022. Credit: Patrick Semansky / AP

NEW LIMERICK, Maine — The Justice Department is “pushing back” on letting senators review classified documents seized at former President Donald Trump’s Florida home and an unredacted affidavit justifying the raid, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said Wednesday.

The Republican sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, whose leaders sent a bipartisan mid-August letter to top officials in the administration of President Joe Biden asking for documents on the rationale for the search. They would be reviewed by senators in a classified setting. Collins’ comments indicate possible tension between the government branches. 

The reasons for the investigation have become clearer with disclosures in the past week, including a redacted affidavit released last week that detailed the criminal investigation into the former president for retaining classified documents. This week, the Justice Department said documents were “likely concealed and removed” to obstruct the investigation.

Trump, a Republican mulling a 2024 rematch with the Democratic president, has called the FBI raid a partisan attack in a message amplified by many Republicans. Biden has said he had no advance notice of the search and condemned attacks on the FBI in a Tuesday speech.

Two days after the early-August search, Collins called the events “shocking.” A day later, she told WABI that if it only had to do with disputes over documents, it would be an “excessive move” by the Justice Department. But she has been more restrained as details have emerged.

At a business visit in the southern Aroostook County town of New Limerick, she said there was “a lot that we don’t know” about the search and the best way to “get to the bottom of this” is to see the materials taken and the unredacted affidavit.

“I hope that we will be getting it shortly, after we get back in session, but so far the Department of Justice has been pushing back,” she said.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Collins’ remarks. A spokesperson for Biden’s director of national intelligence declined to comment.

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, the lead Republican on the intelligence committee, said in a weekend statement that members were still waiting for the information. Other members of the Senate panel were not willing to go as far on the Biden’s administration’s response. 

A spokesperson for Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, said the committee chairman “looks forward” to a pending assessment from the Biden administration on national security threats posed by Trump’s handling of documents and a briefing on the probe.

“Senator King is looking forward to getting the materials that were requested,” said Matthew Felling, a spokesperson for Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, who caucuses with Democrats and also sits on the panel. “Beyond that, we don’t want to comment on an ongoing investigation or make any characterizations just yet.”

Collins has a complex relationship with Trump. After saying she would not vote for him in 2016, she avoided saying who she backed in the presidential election four years later as both she and Trump faced stiff reelection bids. In early 2021, she was one of seven Republicans to vote to convict him on an impeachment charge related to the Capitol riots of Jan. 6, 2021.

On Wednesday, Collins echoed Biden’s condemnation of attacks on the FBI, which has said it is dealing with an “unprecedented” level of threats after the Mar-a-Lago search. Its director, Christopher Wray, met with Collins and King in southern Maine earlier this month.

“Regardless of one’s views on the raid, we should not be targeting law enforcement,” she said. “I am so grateful for the job that our law enforcement officers do in this country.”

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...