Transcript: Sen. Angus King on "Face the Nation," March 18, 2018

The firing of FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe and President Trump's jubilant reaction has elevated concerns that Mr. Trump is moving to shut down special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. Mr. Trump tweeted on Saturday that the Mueller probe "should never have been started" in the first place.

Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine, joined us to discuss his concerns with Mr. Trump's attacks on the Mueller investigation, McCabe's firing and Mr. Trump's nominees for CIA director and secretary of state.

The following is a transcript of the interview with King that aired Sunday, March 18, 2018, on "Face the Nation."  


MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to Maine independent Senator Angus King who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee. He joins us from Carrabassett Valley, his home state this morning. Good morning, sir. I want to give you a chance as well to respond to the firing of FBI's deputy Andrew McCabe. It came just hours before his retirement, when he would have been allowed to receive full benefits. What is your reaction?

SEN. ANGUS KING: Well I think the first reaction as much as Rand Paul said that I think we got to see that inspector general's report. I don't want to go on press reports of pieces of it. A long time ago, I learned there are two sides to every story and I want to see what the inspector general says. I want to see what Andrew McCabe has in the way of a response. But even if you assume for a moment that the inspector general report said he did these-- he had these violations of the code of the FBI, if you will -- My problem is the timing and the way it all worked it just seemed mean spirited to come down on a guy within 48 hours of his scheduled retirement he had 21 years of exceptional service in the FBI.

So it was-- it was clearly rushed and I think there are questions about that and whether the administration was putting pressure on the -- on the Justice Department to take this action. The whole thing appears -- at least at this point, we're going to find out more in the coming weeks -- but it appears to have been compressed in order to take vengeance on this guy for some reason. And -- and I don't think that's the way we should be governing. So we have to find out the facts of what he did and if he did then some punishment was necessary, but to-to rush it through in order to take his pension away from him within a few hours of the end of his tenure strikes me, as I said, mean spirited.

BRENNAN: Your fellow intel committee member Mark Warner has called on all members of Congress to speak out in defense of this special counsel. The President's had a lot to say about Robert Mueller this morning. His own personal attorney John Dowd has called for an end to the Mueller probe, what do you make of that?

SEN. KING: I think it's a huge mistake for the president. I think it's very dangerous for the country. Robert Mueller is as straight an arrow as there is in America. He's a former Marine, he's a prosecutor. I think he's a Republican. He was -- when he was appointed everybody said, "Hooray, this is the right guy." And now he's just doing his job. And for the administration to keep trying to undercut what they're trying to do. The President keeps saying there's no story here, they didn't do anything wrong. If they didn't do anything wrong why are they going to such extreme lengths to undermine this investigation which is being carried out in a very responsible way?

You've notice there haven't been many if any leaks from the Mueller investigation. Non-political. They're trying to get to the bottom of a very complicated set of facts. And anybody that says there's nothing to it, well they've already had three or four guilty pleas and 15 or 20 indictments. That tells me that there is something going on here and there's something serious. It may or may not involve the Trump campaign or the president but it certainly involves a lot of other people this is a serious investigation. And if the President tries to terminate it prematurely I think it will be a- a true constitutional crisis.

BRENNAN: What is the top question you have for Gina Haspel when she comes before your committee?

SEN. KING: Well the-the real question I have is: Okay what did you have to do with this so-called enhanced interrogation which Rand Paul quite properly pointed out is actually torture. And I particularly am interested in the destruction of the videotape because that was as I understand it against the instructions of the general counsel of the CIA, somebody knew they were doing something wrong.

I think the CIA should declassify as much surrounding this circumstance as possible so she can answer these questions in an open setting. And the American people can understand what the context was. I'm - I'm very, very troubled by this. And as Senator Paul said it seems to me there may be other people qualified to do this job that weren't involved in what John McCain has characterized, one of the darkest moments of our recent history.

BRENNAN: You did vote for John Brennan to become CIA director. He was higher ranking within the agency at the time when these practices as you call it torture were carried out. How did you reconcile that? Why vote for him and withhold it for her?

SEN. KING: Well - well because we determined that there was a lot of examination that he wasn't directly involved in the decision making. He was there. He was an executive at the CIA. But, but she was on the on the spot at least that's what. And again we're talking about material that isn't fully in the public sphere and that's why the first thing I said was the CIA should declassify as much of this as is remotely possible so that we can all make a full judgment. But her involvement was much more direct and-and hands on if you will than John Brennan's and also John came forth and basically said I regret that we did this.

One of the questions I want to ask her is how do you feel about what went on and what is your view looking back. And the other thing we have to think about, Margaret, is she's going to work for a President who has said waterboarding is no big deal and although it's the law of the land that it can't be done now you know is he going to try to change that and is she going to follow orders from a President that tells her to do something that's contrary to the law because she was involved in this project 15 years ago. So those are the kinds of questions I think she's going to have to answer.

BRENNAN: And if she says she personally disagrees, it would be enough to switch your vote?

SEN. KING: Well I'm not sure it's the whole context. I want to-- I want to listen to her explanation and how she how she reacts to the questions.

BRENNAN: Got it. Senator, thank you very much for joining us this morning.