Lawmakers rally to defend Mueller after McCabe exit

Lawmakers on Sunday rallied to the defense of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE after concerns were raised over his job security following the abrupt firing of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeThe FBI should turn off the FARA faucet John Durham's endgame: Don't expect criminal charges Carter Page sues over surveillance related to Russia probe MORE.

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsDemocrat stalls Biden's border nominee Garland strikes down Trump-era immigration court rule, empowering judges to pause cases Unsealed documents detail Trump and Biden efforts on reporter records 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 TrumpTrump hails Arizona Senate for audit at Phoenix rally, slams governor Arkansas governor says it's 'disappointing' vaccinations have become 'political' Watch live: Trump attends rally in Phoenix MORE denouncing Mueller, McCabe and former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyBiden sister has book deal, set to publish in April Mystery surrounds Justice's pledge on journalist records NYT publisher: DOJ phone records seizure a 'dangerous incursion' on press freedom 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 GowdyTrey Gowdy sets goal of avoiding ideological echo chamber with Fox News show Fox News signs Trey Gowdy, Dan Bongino for new shows Pompeo rebukes Biden's new foreign policy 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 erupts in anger over Jan. 6 and Trump's role Six takeaways: What the FEC reports tell us about the midterm elections Lobbying world 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 RosensteinWashington still needs more transparency House Judiciary to probe DOJ's seizure of data from lawmakers, journalists The Hill's Morning Report - Biden-Putin meeting to dominate the week 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 FlakeBiden nominates former Sen. Tom Udall as New Zealand ambassador Biden to nominate Jane Hartley as UK ambassador: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Voting rights will be on '22, '24 ballots 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 DurbinNew York gun rights case before Supreme Court with massive consequences  Schumer leaves door open for second vote on bipartisan infrastructure deal Bipartisan group says it's still on track after setback on Senate floor 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 GrahamSenate braces for a nasty debt ceiling fight Bipartisan group says it's still on track after setback on Senate floor How Sen. Graham can help fix the labor shortage with commonsense immigration reform 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 LankfordAbbott slams Ben & Jerry's for Palestine support: 'Disgraceful' Democrat stalls Biden's border nominee Republican calls on Oklahoma to ban Ben & Jerry's 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.