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 ScaliseGOP lawmakers: House leaders already jockeying for leadership contests House Republicans find silver lining in minority House passes anti-hate measure amid Dem tensions 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 McCarthyOvernight Energy: McConnell tees up vote on Green New Deal | Centrist Dems pitch alternative to plan | House Republican likens Green New Deal to genocide | Coca-Cola reveals it uses 3M tons of plastic every year House GOP lawmaker says Green New Deal is like genocide GOP lawmakers: House leaders already jockeying for leadership contests MORE (R-Calif.) over the weekend.

The moves align the No. 2 and No. 3 House GOP leaders with President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoint Chiefs chairman denies report that US is planning to keep 1K troops in Syria Kansas Department of Transportation calls Trump 'delusional communist' on Twitter Trump has privately voiced skepticism about driverless cars: report 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 RyanPaul Ryan says Trump will win reelection because of 'record of accomplishment' Pence loses House office space Dem budget chair: Trump 2020 proposal 'cruel-hearted' 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 McConnellRepublicans up for reelection fear daylight with Trump Overnight Energy: Students around globe demand climate action | EPA bans consumer sales of deadly chemical in paint strippers | Green New Deal set for Senate vote The Hill's Morning Report — Trump readies first veto after latest clash with Senate GOP 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 ClintonGOP lawmaker defends Chelsea Clinton after confrontation over New Zealand attacks Klobuchar: Race, gender should not be litmus tests for 2020 Dem nominee Kirsten Gillibrand officially announces White House run 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 CastroJulian Castro hints at brother Joaquin's Senate run Dems prepare next steps after Trump's veto Joaquin Castro closing in on 2020 Senate bid: report 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 SessionsO'Rourke on impeachment: 2020 vote may be best way to 'resolve' Trump House Judiciary Dem, Republican clash over details of Whitaker testimony DeVos moves to allow religious groups to provide federally funded services to private schools 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 RosensteinGraham says he'll probe Rosenstein's 25th Amendment remarks The damning proof of innocence that FBI likely withheld in Russian probe Conway's husband: 'Banana republic' if Trump got his wish to go after investigators 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 GoodlatteTop Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview It’s time for Congress to pass an anti-cruelty statute DOJ opinion will help protect kids from dangers of online gambling MORE (R-Va.) and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyTop Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview Gowdy calls congressional hearings like Cohen's 'utterly useless' The family secret Bruce Ohr told Rod Rosenstein about Russia case 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 GrassleyKlobuchar: ObamaCare a 'missed opportunity' to address drug costs Just one in five expect savings from Trump tax law: poll Divisions emerge over House drug price bills MORE (R-Iowa) and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCNN anchor hits Trump: He didn't go to Vietnam 'until he was in his 70s' with 'Secret Service protection' Trump reignites criticism of McCain months after senator's death Graham defends McCain amid Trump attacks: 'Nothing about his service will ever be changed' 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.