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 unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 Texas man with politician hit list, illegally 3D printed rifle sentenced to eight years The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine - Will there be any last-minute shutdown drama? 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 McCarthySteve King spins GOP punishment into political weapon Steve King asks for Congressional Record correction over white supremacist quote Steve King urges supporters to pray for his committee assignments to be restored: report MORE (R-Calif.) over the weekend.

The moves align the No. 2 and No. 3 House GOP leaders with President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff urges GOP colleagues to share private concerns about Trump publicly US-China trade talks draw criticism for lack of women in pictures Overnight Defense: Trump to leave 200 troops in Syria | Trump, Kim plan one-on-one meeting | Pentagon asks DHS to justify moving funds for border wall 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 RyanFive takeaways from McCabe’s allegations against Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report: Sanders set to shake up 2020 race McCabe: No one in 'Gang of Eight' objected to FBI probe into Trump 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 McConnellOvernight Energy: Trump ends talks with California on car emissions | Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal | Climate PAC backing Inslee in possible 2020 run Poll: 33% of Kentucky voters approve of McConnell Five takeaways from McCabe’s allegations against Trump 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 ClintonHillicon Valley: Trump pushes to speed up 5G rollout | Judge hits Roger Stone with full gag order | Google ends forced arbitration | Advertisers leave YouTube after report on pedophile ring 4 ways Hillary looms over the 2020 race Hillary Clinton met with Biden, Klobuchar to talk 2020: report 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 CastroThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump jumps on Smollett charges Pelosi asks members to support resolution against emergency declaration Dems to introduce measure blocking Trump's emergency declaration 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 SessionsEx-Trump aide: Can’t imagine Mueller not giving House a ‘roadmap’ to impeachment Rosenstein: My time at DOJ is 'coming to an end' Five takeaways from McCabe’s allegations against Trump 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 RosensteinEx-Trump aide: Can’t imagine Mueller not giving House a ‘roadmap’ to impeachment Rosenstein: My time at DOJ is 'coming to an end' Five takeaways from McCabe’s allegations against Trump 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 GoodlatteIt’s time for Congress to pass an anti-cruelty statute DOJ opinion will help protect kids from dangers of online gambling House GOP probe into FBI, DOJ comes to an end MORE (R-Va.) and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyThe family secret Bruce Ohr told Rod Rosenstein about Russia case Trey Gowdy joins Fox News as a contributor Congress must take the next steps on federal criminal justice reforms 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 GrassleyThe Hill's Morning Report - What to watch for as Mueller’s probe winds down Overnight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Drug pricing fight centers on insulin | Florida governor working with Trump to import cheaper drugs | Dems blast proposed ObamaCare changes Drug pricing fight centers on insulin MORE (R-Iowa) and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamActing Defense chief calls Graham an 'ally' after tense exchange Five takeaways from McCabe’s allegations against Trump FBI’s top lawyer believed Hillary Clinton should face charges, but was talked out of it 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.