GOP leaders back second special counsel

House GOP leaders are starting to come out in strong support of a second special counsel to investigate conservative allegations of bias and abuse at the FBI.

Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseOn The Money: Midterms to shake up House finance panel | Chamber chief says US not in trade war | Mulvaney moving CFPB unit out of DC | Conservatives frustrated over big spending bills Midterms to shake up top posts on House finance panel On The Money: Senate approves 4B spending bill | China imposes new tariffs on billion in US goods | Ross downplays new tariffs: 'Nobody's going to actually notice' MORE (R-La.) said Monday he backs the appointment of another special counsel to look at how law enforcement has handled the Russia probe. Scalise’s statement echoed similar calls from Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyOn The Money: Midterms to shake up House finance panel | Chamber chief says US not in trade war | Mulvaney moving CFPB unit out of DC | Conservatives frustrated over big spending bills Midterms to shake up top posts on House finance panel The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh confirmation in sudden turmoil MORE (R-Calif.) over the weekend.

The moves align the No. 2 and No. 3 House GOP leaders with President TrumpDonald John TrumpHannity urges Trump not to fire 'anybody' after Rosenstein report Ben Carson appears to tie allegation against Kavanaugh to socialist plot Five takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate MORE, who could be a factor in a future leadership race between the two friendly rivals.

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Neither Scalise nor McCarthy wants any daylight between themselves and Trump in the event Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHow does the 25th Amendment work? Sinema, Fitzpatrick call for long-term extension of Violence Against Women Act GOP super PAC drops .5 million on Nevada ad campaign MORE (R-Wis.) calls it quits after the November midterm elections.

“I agree with the many others who have called for the appointment of an additional special counsel,” Scalise said in a statement Monday.

“We need a second special counsel,” McCarthy told Fox News on Saturday.

Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP, Kavanaugh accuser struggle to reach deal GOP making counteroffer to Kavanaugh accuser The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump questions Kavanaugh accuser's account | Accuser may testify Thursday | Midterm blame game begins MORE (R-Ky.) have not endorsed the idea of a second probe nor criticized special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s investigation, despite growing calls from rank-and-file members.

Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong did not respond to questions about other GOP leaders calling for another special counsel, but said Ryan continues to back Mueller’s investigation.

“As the Speaker has always said, Mr. Mueller and his team should be able to do their job,” Strong said in a statement.

McConnell has not publicly weighed in on the issue, and a spokesman did not return a request for comment.

The creation of a second special counsel would almost certainly muddy the waters surrounding Mueller’s investigation and could undermine it by raising questions about his evidence. At the same time, it could chill suggestions that Mueller should be fired by Trump, a maneuver many Republicans see as a huge political risk and the White House insists is not in play.

Democrats argue the creation of a second investigation would be a smokescreen designed to shift criticism toward 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate Heller embraces Trump in risky attempt to survive in November Live coverage: Cruz, O'Rourke clash in Texas debate MORE, whom Trump has repeatedly blamed for the instigation of the probe.

“The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime,” Trump tweeted on Saturday in a message notable for calling Mueller out by name.

“It was based on fraudulent activities and a Fake Dossier paid for by Crooked Hillary and the [Democratic National Committee], and improperly used in [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] COURT for surveillance of my campaign. WITCH HUNT!”

The tweet references the “Steele dossier,” a collection of opposition research produced by retired British spy Christopher Steele, and funded by Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee. The dossier was then used in an application to obtain a surveillance warrant on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

“That appears to be a political distraction machine,” Rep. Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroCook Political Report moves Texas Senate race to ‘toss-up’ Julián and Joaquin Castro to campaign with O'Rourke in Texas Castro says Dems will restart Russia probe if they win back the House MORE (D-Texas) said of the growing calls for a second special counsel. “I think that’s the point of it, for them to try to equate everything, basically try to paint a picture as though everybody messed up, or everybody’s bad, therefore nobody’s bad.”

Castro expressed concern that Trump would fire Mueller regardless of whether there is a second special counsel in place.

“My sense is that ultimately, if the special counsel gets close to people around the president, that the president will fire Bob Mueller,” Castro said.

Trump’s legal team wants the second special counsel to investigate whether FBI and Justice Department officials abused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) by using the dossier to justify spying on Page as part of the Russia probe.

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump vows to get rid of 'stench' at DOJ, FBI NY Times, McCabe give Trump perfect cover to fire Rosenstein, Sessions House Judiciary on NY Times article: I intend to subpoena 'McCabe Memos' MORE last week revealed he has tapped a former official outside the Beltway to review the need for a second special counsel, suggesting the idea is receiving a serious look.

Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinHannity urges Trump not to fire 'anybody' after Rosenstein report Rosenstein: 'I never pursued' trying to record Trump Trump vows to get rid of 'stench' at DOJ, FBI MORE appointed Mueller to investigate Trump campaign associates’ ties to Russia after Sessions recused himself from the investigation last year.

McCarthy and Scalise have joined a growing chorus of powerful GOP lawmakers who support another special counsel.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh, accuser say they’re prepared to testify Goodlatte: Administration undercut law, Congress by setting refugee cap Virginia reps urge Trump to declare federal emergency ahead of Hurricane Florence MORE (R-Va.) and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyGowdy requests FEMA administrator’s travel records amid allegations Nunes: Russia probe documents should be released before election Gowdy: House Intel panel should release all transcripts from Russia probe MORE (R-S.C.) have called on Sessions and Rosenstein to appoint a second special counsel to investigate “potential criminality” related to the surveillance warrant application for Page.

They also called for a review of any evidence of “bias” by Justice Department or FBI employees, as well as whether there was any “extraneous influence” on the surveillance process.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGrassley extends deadline for Kavanaugh accuser to decide on testifying Ben Carson appears to tie allegation against Kavanaugh to socialist plot Kavanaugh accuser seeks additional day to decide on testimony MORE (R-Iowa) and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamKim, Moon toss ball to Trump in ‘last, best chance’ for Korean peace GOP senator: Kavanaugh accuser 'moving the goalposts' Collins: Kavanaugh accuser should 'reconsider,' testify on Monday MORE (R-S.C.) sent a letter to Sessions and Rosenstein last week asking for a special counsel to “gather all the facts.”

The Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, is already investigating potential FISA abuses. But Republicans argue the inspector general does not have the prosecutorial authority needed to conduct a full investigation of the FBI’s actions.

“An inspector general does not have subpoena power,” McCarthy said. “We need somebody to look at this, and not from the inside — because you can’t trust what’s happening right now.”

In his statement, Scalise argued it’s the only way to ensure the public has full faith in Mueller’s findings.

“The credibility of the Mueller investigation will be in doubt unless we get to the bottom of the many serious questions regarding the FBI’s handling of their investigation of the Trump campaign,” Scalise said.

Katie Bo Williams contributed.