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GOP leaders to Trump: Leave Mueller alone

GOP leaders to Trump: Leave Mueller alone
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellAssaults on Roe v Wade increasing Trump spokesman says defeating Cheney a top priority Biden to meet with GOP senators amid infrastructure push MORE (R-Ky.) on Tuesday defended 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 as “thoroughly credible” as Senate Republicans pushed back on President TrumpDonald TrumpThe Memo: The Obamas unbound, on race Iran says onus is on US to rejoin nuclear deal on third anniversary of withdrawal Assaults on Roe v Wade increasing MORE’s criticism of his investigation.

McConnell said he had full confidence in Mueller and praised his selection as “an excellent appointment.”

“I think he will go wherever the facts lead him, and I think he will have great credibility with the American people when he reaches the conclusion of this investigation, so I have a lot of confidence,” McConnell told reporters.

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The GOP leader also downplayed speculation that Trump may order senior Justice Department officials to fire Mueller. 


“I don’t think Bob Mueller is going anywhere,” McConnell said. “We all anticipate him finishing the job and telling the American people what they need to know about this episode.”

His strong defense of the special counsel drew applause from Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden to meet with GOP senators amid infrastructure push The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Upbeat jobs data, relaxed COVID-19 restrictions offer rosier US picture How to fast-track climate action? EPA cutting super pollutant HFCs MORE (N.Y.), who called it “a shot across the bow” that Trump should heed.

“What Mitch McConnell did today was the right thing, which was talk about the integrity of Mr. Mueller, say that he ought to be allowed to continue his investigation unimpeded,” Schumer said, warning that Trump would create “havoc” by forcing out Mueller.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Capitol, Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Facebook upholds Trump ban; GOP leaders back Stefanik to replace Cheney Budowsky: Liz Cheney vs. conservatives in name only Cheney at donor retreat says Trump's actions 'a line that cannot be crossed': report MORE (R-Wis.) echoed McConnell and said Mueller’s firing isn’t on the table.

“I received assurances that his firing is not even under consideration,” Ryan told reporters at his weekly news conference. “We have a system based upon the rule of law in this country. We have a justice system, and no one is above that justice system.”

He said the special counsel should be “free to follow through his investigation to its completion without interference.”

The president, however, has made his feelings of frustration with Mueller plain to the public.

Trump blasted Mueller over Twitter on Sunday for hiring investigators who have been registered as Democrats.

“Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans? Another Dem recently added…does anyone think this is fair?” he tweeted.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders underscored the president’s ire Tuesday by criticizing how long the investigation has taken.

“To pretend like going through this absurd process over a year would not bring frustration seems a little ridiculous,” she said.

Amid the furor over Trump’s criticism of Mueller, some Republicans — including members of House GOP leadership — are pushing hard for Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsBiden fills immigration court with Trump hires Trump admin got phone records of WaPo reporters covering Russia probe: report Ex-Sen. Doug Jones joins law and lobbying firm Arent Fox MORE to appoint a second special counsel to investigate potential abuse by the FBI in the Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMcConnell: Taliban could take over Afghanistan by 'the end of the year' Hillary Clinton: There must be a 'global reckoning' with disinformation Pelosi's archbishop calls for Communion to be withheld from public figures supporting abortion rights MORE email server and the Russia election meddling investigations.

Trump has endorsed the idea, saying the ongoing inspector general probe at the Justice Department is insufficient.

But some Senate Republicans rejected the idea. 

“Let’s just let this wrap up,” Senate Republican Conference Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneCheney fight stokes cries of GOP double standard for women Trump muddles Republican messaging on Afghanistan The Memo: Trump's critics face wrath of GOP base MORE (S.D.) said of Mueller’s probe.

“If we get multiple things going out there, stuff will go on forever,” he added when asked about appointing a second special counsel.

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCheney drama exposes GOP's Trump rifts House to advance appropriations bills in June, July Manchin touts rating as 'most bipartisan senator' MORE (R-Maine) said Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz is already looking into allegations of misconduct at the FBI, implying that a second special counsel would not be necessary.

“I’ve dealt with him pretty extensively when I was in a different capacity and I have a lot of confidence in him,” she said.

Horowitz had been working on a broad report about the FBI’s handling of the Clinton investigation. The report is expected this spring.

Other GOP members of the Judiciary Committee say Horowitz’s examination of unethical behavior at the FBI would be helped by a second special counsel.

Senate Republican Whip John CornynJohn CornynTim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls Cornyn is most prolific tweeter in Congress so far in 2021 Schumer 'exploring' passing immigration unilaterally if talks unravel MORE (Texas) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGrassley asks Blinken to provide potential conflicts involving John Kerry Overnight Defense: Gillibrand makes new push for military sexual assault reform | US troops begin leaving Afghanistan | Biden budget delay pushes back annual defense policy bill Gillibrand makes new push for military sexual assault reform MORE (R-Iowa) said in a recent letter to Justice Department officials that the inspector general does not have all the necessary tools to gather the facts.

They noted it would be difficult for Horowitz to obtain testimony from witnesses who are not current Justice Department employees.

“Thus, we believe that a special counsel is needed to work with the Inspector General to independently gather the facts and make prosecutorial decisions, if they are merited,” they wrote

Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamLindsey Graham: GOP can't 'move forward without President Trump' House to advance appropriations bills in June, July The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  MORE (R-S.C.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisSenate hears from Biden's high-profile judicial nominees for first time Senate Democrats take aim at 'true lender' interest rate rule Former North Carolina chief justice launches Senate campaign MORE (R-N.C.) also signed the letter.

But that effort isn’t gaining traction with other Republicans.

Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanStrengthen CBP regulations to reduce opioid deaths House panel advances bipartisan retirement savings bill Democrats confront difficult prospects for midterms MORE (R-Ohio) said he wasn’t ready to back calls for a second special counsel either.

“I’m not prepared to go there. I want to let Mueller do his work and get it done,” he said.

The statements by Thune, Collins and Portman represent a break with the second- and third-ranking members of the House Republican leadership.

“We need a second special counsel,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthySunday shows preview: Coronavirus dominates as White House continues to push vaccination effort Trump spokesman says defeating Cheney a top priority Gaetz, Greene tout push to oust Cheney: 'Maybe we're the leaders' MORE (R-Calif.) told Fox News over the weekend.

House Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseTrump spokesman says defeating Cheney a top priority Gaetz, Greene tout push to oust Cheney: 'Maybe we're the leaders' Cheney GOP conference deputy has complained about 'coronation' of Stefanik: report MORE (R-La.) on Monday said another independent investigation was needed to review how law enforcement handled the Russia probe.

Democrats say the push is a thinly veiled effort to interfere with Mueller.

“They’re trying to undermine the credibility and integrity of law enforcement to bolster their case that the president is being picked on,” said Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinDick DurbinAmerica's Jewish communities are under attack — Here are 3 things Congress can do Schumer 'exploring' passing immigration unilaterally if talks unravel On The Money: Incomes, consumer spending soared in March | Harris, senators work behind scenes on jobs package | Biden cancels some border wall construction MORE (Ill.).