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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 ScaliseMerrick Garland is right to prioritize domestic terrorism, but he'll need a bigger boat Why Congress must invoke the 14th Amendment now The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Ahead: One-shot vax, easing restrictions, fiscal help 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 McCarthyMcCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 Democrats don't trust GOP on 1/6 commission: 'These people are dangerous' Sunday shows preview: 2024 hopefuls gather at CPAC; House passes coronavirus relief; vaccine effort continues MORE (R-Calif.) over the weekend.

The moves align the No. 2 and No. 3 House GOP leaders with President TrumpDonald TrumpNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech On The Trail: Cuomo and Newsom — a story of two embattled governors McCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 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 RyanCruz hires Trump campaign press aide as communications director Bottom line Ex-Trump chief of staff Priebus mulling Wisconsin governor bid 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 McConnellThe bizarre back story of the filibuster The Bible's wisdom about addressing our political tribalism Democrats don't trust GOP on 1/6 commission: 'These people are dangerous' MORE (R-Ky.) have not endorsed the idea of a second probe nor criticized 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’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 ClintonMedia circles wagons for conspiracy theorist Neera Tanden The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Senate ref axes minimum wage, House votes today on relief bill Democratic strategists start women-run media consulting firm 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 CastroState Department establishes chief officer in charge of diversity Texas governor faces criticism over handling of winter storm fallout DC bureau chief for The Intercept: Impeachment managers became 'like the dog who caught the car' when permitted to call witnesses 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 SessionsManchin flexes muscle in 50-50 Senate Udalls: Haaland criticism motivated 'by something other than her record' Ocasio-Cortez targets Manchin over Haaland confirmation 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 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 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 GoodlatteBottom line No documents? Hoping for legalization? Be wary of Joe Biden Press: Trump's final presidential pardon: himself MORE (R-Va.) and 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.) 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 GrassleyChuck GrassleyGrassley to vote against Tanden nomination Grassley says he'll decide this fall whether to run in 2022 Yellen deputy Adeyemo on track for quick confirmation MORE (R-Iowa) and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamOvernight Defense: Biden sends message with Syria airstrike | US intel points to Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi killing | Pentagon launches civilian-led sexual assault commission Graham: Trump will 'be helpful' to all Senate GOP incumbents John Boehner tells Cruz to 'go f--- yourself' in unscripted audiobook asides: report 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.