Sen. Angus King: Not enough evidence against Trump yet for impeachment

"We may get there, but we are not there now," the Maine independent and member of the Senate Intelligence Committee told "Meet the Press."
Image: Angus King Meet The Press
Angus King speaks with Chuck Todd on Meet The Press.NBC

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By Ben Kamisar

WASHINGTON — Maine independent Sen. Angus King, cautioned Democrats in Congress Sunday that there's not enough public evidence at this point to impeach President Donald Trump without the issue devolving into partisan warfare.

"I don't think that there's evidence yet available to the public where there would be more or less a consensus that this is an appropriate path," King said in an appearance on "Meet the Press."

"My concern is that if impeachment is moved forward on the evidence that we have now, at least a third of the country would think it was just political revenge and a coup against the president," said the senator, who caucuses with Democrats. "That wouldn't serve us well at all. The best way to solve a problem like this, to me, is elections."

King added that, as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, he's privy to additional information about special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation that's not available to the public. And he said that Congress needs to be careful that it doesn't set a strictly partisan standard on an issue as important as impeachment.

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"I'm a conservative when it comes to impeachment. I think it's a last resort and only when the evidence is clear of a really substantial legal violation," he said.

"We may get there, but we are not there now."

King's comments come after a rough week for Trump, particularly as it relates to Mueller's investigation into possible collusion between the president's campaign and Russia during the 2016 election.

Last week, federal prosecutors accused Trump of directing his former lawyer, Michael Cohen to commit campaign finance felonies regarding hush-money payments to two adult film entertainers who claim they had affairs with Trump years ago.

Cohen also admitted that he lied to Congress about his discussions with Trump and his family members about a plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

In a possible preview of GOP opposition to any impeachment effort, Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul argued that the special counsel's investigation has been overly broad to begin with.

He said that prosecutors have "over-criminalized" possible campaign finance violations related to Cohen's hush-money payments.

Paul argued that Mueller's agreements with Cohen and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn could be proof of "prosecutorial abuse" that has pressured Trump allies into finding something to provide to the special counsel in exchange for a lighter sentence.

And he downplayed the idea that Trump seeking to build a Trump Tower in Russia while running for president was a problem.

"If you were asking and saying 'I will give you something in exchange for letting us build a hotel, that would be wrong. But i haven't heard any evidence of that," the Kentucky senator said.

"Just trying to build a hotel somewhere, I can't imagine how that would be criminal or why you'd lie about it."