FBI Director James Comey’s ouster Tuesday was in some ways an “inevitable conclusion” to the months-long controversy over his handling of the agency’s probe into Hillary Clinton’s emails, says Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.
Comey’s decision last July to hold a press conference announcing that the FBI would not indict Clinton for using a private email server as Secretary of State was “well intentioned,” Collins told PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff in an interview Tuesday night, shortly after the White House fired Comey.
But “it really wasn’t his call and in that area it does appear that his actions were contrary to the general rules followed by the Department of Justice,” Collins said.
Comey’s unusual press conference last July was a break from tradition for the FBI, which has a longstanding policy of not commenting on ongoing investigations. Four months after the conference, Comey sent a letter to members of Congress — 11 days before the election — informing lawmakers that the FBI had uncovered new emails in the Clinton investigation.
The letter put the FBI probe back in the headlines in the final days of the election, when Clinton was leading Donald Trump in the polls. Clinton has blamed the Comey letter, in part, for her loss to Trump.
President Trump’s decision to fire Comey with little warning Tuesday was perhaps “inevitable given the fact that Mr. Comey has been unable to put this controversy to rest,” Collins said.
In recent months Comey also found himself in the media spotlight as FBI and House and Senate investigators launched probes into possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, as well as Russia’s possible interference in last year’s election.
Collins, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she was confident the FBI’s probe into Russia’s role in the 2016 election would not be impacted by Comey’s firing.
“I have every confidence that the FBI will continue pursuing its investigation into the Russian attempt to influence the elections last fall,” Collins said. “It should go forward and it will go forward.”
Collins also touched on the health care debate on Capitol Hill, which has shifted to the Senate after House Republicans passed a health care bill last week.
Collins said it was “evident” the Senate would draft its own health care bill, instead of trying to pass the House measure. Several Republican senators have objected to provisions in the House bill to undo major parts of the Affordable Care Act, making its passage in the upper chamber — where the GOP holds a slim 52-48 majority — highly unlikely.
Collins said she was concerned with the parts of the House bill that would overhaul Medicaid and create a system of age-based tax credits. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the original House bill, which failed to get enough support in March, would cause 24 million Americans to lose their health insurance by 2026.
“That is an issue that concerns me greatly,” Collins said.
In January, Collins and Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., introduced a healthcare bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act that would allow states to keep the law in place. The bill would maintain several of Obamacare’s most popular provisions, like protections for patients with pre-existing conditions, a provision allowing young people to stay on their parents’ plans through age 26.
Watch Collins’ full interview with Judy Woodruff on the May 9 episode of PBS Newshour.