BRUNSWICK, Maine (AP) — Republican Sen. Susan Collins, of Maine, said Friday she wants the Senate to debate placing restrictions on President Donald Trump's ability to remove special counsel Robert Mueller.
Speaking in Brunswick, Collins said she's "very concerned" about the appointment of Matt Whitaker to serve as acting attorney general because of his comments about setting parameters for the probe into whether Trump's presidential campaign coordinated with Russia in 2016.
Collins believes such a bill could pressure Trump to let Mueller's investigation run its course.
"I recognize that the president is never going to sign such a bill, but I think Senate debate and passage of the bill would send a very strong message to the president," she said.
She said ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions proved himself to be "an individual of great integrity" by recusing himself and allowing sufficient resources for Mueller to complete the probe. Under Sessions, the investigation was overseen by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Trump forced out Sessions and on Wednesday installed Whitaker, a Republican Party loyalist, to oversee the special counsel investigation. Democrats quickly called for Whitaker to recuse himself, as well, because of past comments in which he was critical of the investigation.
Whitaker's past comments include a radio interview in which he maintained there was no evidence of collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign. He also wrote in an op-ed that Mueller would be straying outside his mandate if he investigated Trump family finances.
Collins said she has a group of senators who are going to pressure Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow the bill to be debated.
"It is time to bring the bill to the Senate floor," she said, adding that she'd vote in favor of it.
The centrist told a group of reporters that she's keeping a positive outlook about the coming year. She said Democrats seizing control of the House on Election Day means both parties will have to work together.
"I actually see an opportunity here," she said. "It appears that this is an opportunity for people like me who try to bring people together to find common ground because it's not going to be one-party rule. We're going to have to have support from both parties in order to get anything done."