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Lawmakers rally to defend Mueller after McCabe exit

Lawmakers on Sunday rallied to the defense of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump MORE after concerns were raised over his job security following the abrupt firing of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeJohn Durham's endgame: Don't expect criminal charges Carter Page sues over surveillance related to Russia probe McCabe defends investigation of Trump before Senate committee: We had 'many reasons' MORE.

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTanden withdraws nomination as Biden budget chief Manchin flexes muscle in 50-50 Senate Udalls: Haaland criticism motivated 'by something other than her record' MORE announced on Friday that he fired the FBI’s No. 2 official in a move that roiled Washington, D.C., and spurred a series of tweets from President TrumpDonald TrumpSouth Carolina Senate adds firing squad as alternative execution method Ex-Trump aide Pierson won't run for Dallas-area House seat House Oversight panel reissues subpoena for Trump's accounting firm MORE denouncing Mueller, McCabe and former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyWray says FBI not systemically racist John Durham's endgame: Don't expect criminal charges Trump DOJ officials sought to block search of Giuliani records: report MORE.

McCabe said his firing was an attempt to undermine the Mueller investigation into Russia's election interference and possible collusion between members of Trump's campaign and Moscow. The president targeted Mueller's investigation in a series of tweets over the weekend, further alarming many lawmakers.

Democrats on Sunday were calling for proactive measures to protect Mueller and his investigation. Republicans insisted Trump has no intention of firing the special counsel, although the White House also acknowledged Trump is "frustrated."

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“Give him the time, the resources, the independence to do his job,” House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey GowdyTrey GowdyPompeo rebukes Biden's new foreign policy The Hunter Biden problem won't go away Sunday shows preview: Joe Biden wins the 2020 election MORE (R-S.C.) told “Fox News Sunday” of Mueller. 

“Let it play out its course. If you’ve done nothing wrong, you should want the investigation to be as fulsome and thorough as possible,” he added of Trump.

Trump has repeatedly denounced the Russia investigation as a "witch hunt." But the president’s most recent attacks on Mueller come after the special counsel reportedly subpoenaed the Trump Organization and, according to another report, provided Trump’s legal team with a series of questions leading up to a possible interview with Trump. McCabe has also provided the special counsel with memos describing his contacts with Trump, according to multiple reports. 

While Trump's team has quietly cooperated with Mueller over the past weeks, the president over the weekend seemed to unleash his frustration with the investigation.

“The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime,” Trump wrote on Twitter Saturday. He went on to criticize on Sunday the members of Mueller's team as "13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary [Clinton] supporters, and Zero Republicans." He also lashed out at reports McCabe had memos on their interaction on Sunday, tweeting that McCabe “never took notes when he was with me.”

Democrats have long expressed concerns over Trump’s attacks on the special counsel, and lawmakers in both parties have put forward legislation that would enshrine legal protections for Mueller.

Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffHouse Democrats want to silence opposing views, not 'fake news' White House defends not sanctioning Saudi crown prince over Khashoggi What good are the intelligence committees? MORE (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, called on his colleagues to “speak out now” and not wait for the possible “crisis” of Trump firing Mueller.

“I think, George [Stephanopoulos], you just pointed to the single most important development of the week and that is at the same time it's revealed that the special counsel is looking at business records of the Trump Organization, and I've always thought the money laundering issue was the most serious, you have the president through his lawyer trying to shut down the Mueller investigation and speaking out against special counsel,” Schiff told ABC’s "This Week."

Trump's personal attorney John Dowd on Saturday called on Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinRosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' Comey argues Trump shouldn't be prosecuted after leaving Oval Office Trump turns his ire toward Cabinet members MORE to "bring an end" to Mueller's investigation, prompting increased concern from Trump critics that the president was trying to influence the Justice Department over the probe. 

Such a move would be “a massive red line that can’t be crossed,” according to Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeFormer GOP lawmaker: Republican Party 'engulfed in lies and fear' Grassley to vote against Tanden nomination Klain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' MORE (R-Ariz.).

“So, I hope that that's the case [for most Republicans]. And I would just hope that enough people would prevail on the president now, don't go there. Don't go there,” Flake told CNN.

Senate Minority Whip Dick DurbinDick DurbinBiden coronavirus relief bill tests narrow Democratic majority Hillicon Valley: Senate confirms Biden Commerce secretary pick Gina Raimondo | Wray hints at federal response to SolarWinds hack | Virginia governor signs comprehensive data privacy law Wray hints at federal response to SolarWinds hack MORE (D-Ill.) echoed those concerns, saying it would be a “constitutional crisis” should Trump stop the special counsel’s probe.

And Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTanden withdraws nomination as Biden budget chief FBI director faces lawmaker frustration over Capitol breach Juan Williams: Hypocrisy runs riot in GOP MORE (R-S.C.) said Trump dismissing Mueller “would be the beginning of the end of his presidency.”

“I pledge to the American people, as a Republican, to make sure that Mr. Mueller can continue to do his job without any interference,” Graham told CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I think he's doing a good job.”

Both Graham and Flake — who are members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is leading its own Russia probe — suggested the committee would look into McCabe's firing.

Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordCPAC, all-in for Trump, is not what it used to be Republicans see Becerra as next target in confirmation wars Overnight Health Care: US surpasses half a million COVID deaths | House panel advances Biden's .9T COVID-19 aid bill | Johnson & Johnson ready to provide doses for 20M Americans by end of March MORE (R-Okla.), who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said McCabe’s firing is “not surprising in many ways" and suggested he deserved it, due to the contents of an internal review. The full report has not been released so the evidence that got McCabe fired is not fully known.

But the Oklahoma lawmaker, like most of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle, said Mueller should be allowed to complete his investigation.

“I would say the best thing the special council can do is to finish the investigation, gather all the information that’s needed, come to a conclusion so the American people can make their own decisions,” Lankford told ABC's “This Week.”

Trump has grown frustrated with the length of the Russia probe, White House legislative affairs director Marc Short told CBS’s “Face the Nation.” But Short said that no White House officials are recommending the administration stop cooperating with Mueller’s investigation.

-Update 1:46 p.m.