Maine’s two senators have indicated varying degrees of confidence in the evidence they have been presented with about the threats on U.S. interests that precipitated the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani earlier this month.
Republican Susan Collins and Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, both serve on the Senate Intelligence Committee and have been briefed on the killing. But while a few members of Congress have been outspoken about the briefings they have received, the pair have remained relatively tight-lipped on the matter.
Last week, President Donald Trump floated the idea that Soleimani had been planning an attack on four U.S. embassies before he was killed. But Defense Secretary Mark Esper shot down that theory on Sunday, saying he was not aware of any specific intelligence information suggesting that such an attack was imminent.
During a CNBC interview last week, King raised doubts about the specific events that had provoked the strike, noting that previous presidential administrations had the opportunity to kill Soleimani but chose not to because of the potential political fallout.
“The question that I had that I’m not fully satisfied [with] is: why last Friday?” King said during the interview. “What had happened that provoked this rather startling strike at this particular moment in time?”
A spokesman said on Monday that King’s view had not changed. Collins, however, indicated in an interview with the Bangor Daily News on Friday and through a spokesperson on Monday she has seen evidence that Soleimani was planning attacks on U.S. interests at the time of his death.
“I have read the highly classified reporting from the Intelligence Community indicating Soleimani was planning imminent attacks against American citizens,” she said in a statement.
Collins pointed in an interview to the Iranian-backed U.S. embassy storming in Baghdad, which took place a few days before Soleimani’s killing on Jan. 3, as well as the death of an American contractor in Iraq on Dec. 27, as examples of the threat posed by Soleimani’s influence.
Concerns that the conflict would escalate have died down in recent days after Iran attacked a U.S. air base in Iran last week in retaliation for Soleimani’s killing, but no American or Iraqi troops were killed. Trump declined to respond to that attack militarily, instead hitting Iran with another round of economic sanctions.
But the political repercussions of the president’s decision continue to play out, in both Washington and the Middle East. Last week, the House approved a resolution aiming to limit the president’s ability to take action on Iran without consulting Congress first. The Senate is contemplating a similar resolution, led by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, and with the backing of at least two Republicans, Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Rand Paul, R-Kentucky.
King announced on Thursday that he supported the war powers resolution, while Collins has not yet taken a public stance, though she supported a similar measure last year.