GOP senator breaks with party line: We don't know if there was collusion 'yet'


While the Trump administration denies it, Sen. Susan Collins made it clear that the investigation into collusion is alive and "bearing fruit."

Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins broke with the Trump administration — and much of her own party — on Sunday when she acknowledged that the issue of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign is still very much on the table.

In an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," Collins said that special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation is clearly making progress and "bearing fruit."

"It's interesting you said bearing fruit," host Chuck Todd noted. "Do you believe that there was collusion? Do you believe that this is where this is headed — that Mueller is slowly but surely proving his case that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians?"

Collins' answer was telling.

"We don't know that yet," she said, "but what we do know is that there were conversations during the transition period."

Collins then pointed out that, despite the Trump administration's claims, it was wholly wrong — and potentially a violation of the Logan Act — for the transition team to have reached out to Russian officials regarding Obama-era sanctions while President Obama was still in office. 

 "During the transition period, there is still only one president and that was President Obama, so those conversations should not have ... been taking place," Collins said. 

Collins' comments come on the heels of the revelation that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, acting on orders from top Trump transition officials, had spoken with the Russian ambassador about sanctions imposed by the Obama administration in response to Russia's election interference.

Flynn pleaded guilty Friday to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials.

He is the fourth member of the Trump campaign — but the first from the Trump White House — to be charged in the ongoing probe into Russian interference and potential collusion with the Trump campaign. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates were charged by Mueller in October, as was former campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos.

“Clearly, he is making progress," Collins said of Mueller. "He’s had guilty pleas from two individuals, he’s had two other indictments, so he is making progress."

Indeed — and with each step, Mueller is getting closer to Trump's doorstep.