GOP leaders to Trump: Leave Mueller alone

GOP leaders to Trump: Leave Mueller alone
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate GOP breaks record on confirming Trump picks for key court Senate Democrats block resolution supporting ICE The Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s walk-back fails to stem outrage on Putin meeting MORE (R-Ky.) on Tuesday defended special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE as “thoroughly credible” as Senate Republicans pushed back on President TrumpDonald John TrumpIran claims it rejected Trump meeting requests 8 times ESPY host jokes Putin was as happy after Trump summit as Ovechkin winning Stanley Cup Russian ambassador: Trump made ‘verbal agreements’ with Putin MORE’s criticism of his investigation.

McConnell said he had full confidence in Mueller and praised his selection as “an excellent appointment.”

“I think he will go wherever the facts lead him, and I think he will have great credibility with the American people when he reaches the conclusion of this investigation, so I have a lot of confidence,” McConnell told reporters.

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The GOP leader also downplayed speculation that Trump may order senior Justice Department officials to fire Mueller. 


“I don’t think Bob Mueller is going anywhere,” McConnell said. “We all anticipate him finishing the job and telling the American people what they need to know about this episode.”

His strong defense of the special counsel drew applause from Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats slam Trump for considering Putin’s ’absurd’ request to question Americans Judge Kavanaugh confounds the left This week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation MORE (N.Y.), who called it “a shot across the bow” that Trump should heed.

“What Mitch McConnell did today was the right thing, which was talk about the integrity of Mr. Mueller, say that he ought to be allowed to continue his investigation unimpeded,” Schumer said, warning that Trump would create “havoc” by forcing out Mueller.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Capitol, Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanWhy the rush to condemn a carbon tax? House votes to go to conference on farm bill House backs resolution expressing support for ICE MORE (R-Wis.) echoed McConnell and said Mueller’s firing isn’t on the table.

“I received assurances that his firing is not even under consideration,” Ryan told reporters at his weekly news conference. “We have a system based upon the rule of law in this country. We have a justice system, and no one is above that justice system.”

He said the special counsel should be “free to follow through his investigation to its completion without interference.”

The president, however, has made his feelings of frustration with Mueller plain to the public.

Trump blasted Mueller over Twitter on Sunday for hiring investigators who have been registered as Democrats.

“Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans? Another Dem recently added…does anyone think this is fair?” he tweeted.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders underscored the president’s ire Tuesday by criticizing how long the investigation has taken.

“To pretend like going through this absurd process over a year would not bring frustration seems a little ridiculous,” she said.

Amid the furor over Trump’s criticism of Mueller, some Republicans — including members of House GOP leadership — are pushing hard for Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsKey GOP lawmaker throws cold water on Rosenstein impeachment With new immigration policy, Trump administration gutting the right to asylum Homeland Security advisory council members resign over family separations: report MORE to appoint a second special counsel to investigate potential abuse by the FBI in the Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonState Dept: Russia’s allegations about American citizens ‘absolutely absurd’ Trump on possible sit-down with Mueller: 'I've always wanted to do an interview' Election Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas MORE email server and the Russia election meddling investigations.

Trump has endorsed the idea, saying the ongoing inspector general probe at the Justice Department is insufficient.

But some Senate Republicans rejected the idea. 

“Let’s just let this wrap up,” Senate Republican Conference Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenators share their fascination with sharks at hearing Helsinki summit becomes new flashpoint for GOP anger Senate weighs new Russia response amid Trump backlash MORE (S.D.) said of Mueller’s probe.

“If we get multiple things going out there, stuff will go on forever,” he added when asked about appointing a second special counsel.

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Health Care: Novartis pulls back on drug price hikes | House Dems launch Medicare for All caucus | Trump officials pushing ahead on Medicaid work requirements Senate panel to vote next week on banning 'gag clauses' in pharmacy contracts GOP senator: Trump's changing stances on Russian threat are 'dizzying' MORE (R-Maine) said Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz is already looking into allegations of misconduct at the FBI, implying that a second special counsel would not be necessary.

“I’ve dealt with him pretty extensively when I was in a different capacity and I have a lot of confidence in him,” she said.

Horowitz had been working on a broad report about the FBI’s handling of the Clinton investigation. The report is expected this spring.

Other GOP members of the Judiciary Committee say Horowitz’s examination of unethical behavior at the FBI would be helped by a second special counsel.

Senate Republican Whip John CornynJohn CornynDeal to fix family separations hits snag in the Senate Senate must approve Justice Served Act to achieve full potential of DNA evidence The Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s walk-back fails to stem outrage on Putin meeting MORE (Texas) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s walk-back fails to stem outrage on Putin meeting Senate GOP poised to break record on Trump's court picks This week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation MORE (R-Iowa) said in a recent letter to Justice Department officials that the inspector general does not have all the necessary tools to gather the facts.

They noted it would be difficult for Horowitz to obtain testimony from witnesses who are not current Justice Department employees.

“Thus, we believe that a special counsel is needed to work with the Inspector General to independently gather the facts and make prosecutorial decisions, if they are merited,” they wrote

Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump’s damage control falters Trump: 'I think I did great at the news conference' George Will calls Trump ‘sad, embarrassing wreck of a man’ MORE (R-S.C.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisOvernight Defense: More Trump drama over Russia | Appeals court rules against Trump on transgender ban | Boeing wins Air Force One contract | Military parade to reportedly cost M Deal to fix family separations hits snag in the Senate Senate adds members to pro-NATO group MORE (R-N.C.) also signed the letter.

But that effort isn’t gaining traction with other Republicans.

Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanBipartisan bill would bring needed funds to deteriorating National Park Service infrastructure The Memo: Trump allies hope he can turn the page from Russian fiasco Trump seeks to quell Russia furor MORE (R-Ohio) said he wasn’t ready to back calls for a second special counsel either.

“I’m not prepared to go there. I want to let Mueller do his work and get it done,” he said.

The statements by Thune, Collins and Portman represent a break with the second- and third-ranking members of the House Republican leadership.

“We need a second special counsel,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyHouse backs resolution expressing support for ICE House GOP reverses, cancels vote on Dem bill to abolish ICE Pelosi: 'The Russians have something on the president' MORE (R-Calif.) told Fox News over the weekend.

House Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseWhy the rush to condemn a carbon tax? House backs resolution expressing support for ICE House GOP reverses, cancels vote on Dem bill to abolish ICE MORE (R-La.) on Monday said another independent investigation was needed to review how law enforcement handled the Russia probe.

Democrats say the push is a thinly veiled effort to interfere with Mueller.

“They’re trying to undermine the credibility and integrity of law enforcement to bolster their case that the president is being picked on,” said Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDeal to fix family separations hits snag in the Senate Senate Democrats block resolution supporting ICE Senate Dems press for info on any deals from Trump-Putin meeting MORE (Ill.).