GOP leaders to Trump: Leave Mueller alone

GOP leaders to Trump: Leave Mueller alone
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTwo years after Harvey's devastation, the wake-up call has not been heeded McGrath releases ad blasting McConnell with coal miners in Kentucky: 'Which side are you on?' Prediction: 2020 election is set to be hacked, if we don't act fast MORE (R-Ky.) on Tuesday defended special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerMueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony MORE as “thoroughly credible” as Senate Republicans pushed back on President TrumpDonald John TrumpGraham: America must 'accept the pain that comes in standing up to China' Weld 'thrilled' more Republicans are challenging Trump New data challenges Trump's economic narrative 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 SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerJewish Democratic congresswoman and veteran blasts Trump's 'disloyalty' comments Schumer says Trump encouraging anti-Semites Saagar Enjeti: Biden's latest blunder; Krystal Ball: Did Schumer blow our chance to beat McConnell? 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 RyanUSCIS chief Cuccinelli blames Paul Ryan for immigration inaction Soaring deficits could put Trump in a corner if there's a recession Paul Ryan moving family to Washington 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 SessionsA better way to run the Federal Bureau of Prisons Trump admin erases key environmental enforcement tool DOJ should take action against China's Twitter propaganda MORE to appoint a second special counsel to investigate potential abuse by the FBI in the Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump preps conspiracy theory to explain faltering economy The ideological divide on vaping has a clear winner: Smokers Biden struggles to hit it off with millennials 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 ThuneSchumer blasts 'red flag' gun legislation as 'ineffective cop out' Lawmakers jump-start talks on privacy bill Trump border fight throws curveball into shutdown prospects 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 CollinsAn ode to Joe Manchin's patriotism on his birthday Susan Collins challenger hit with ethics complaints over reimbursements Overnight Health Care: Insurance lobby chief calls Biden, Sanders health plans 'similarly bad' | Trump officials appeal drug price disclosure ruling | Study finds 1 in 7 people ration diabetes medicine due to cost 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 CornynThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes The Hill's Morning Report - Trump on defense over economic jitters Democrats keen to take on Cornyn despite formidable challenges MORE (Texas) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyThe road not taken: Another FBI failure involving the Clintons surfaces White House denies exploring payroll tax cut to offset worsening economy Schumer joins Pelosi in opposition to post-Brexit trade deal that risks Northern Ireland accord 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 GrahamWhat would John McCain do? Sunday shows preview: Trump ratchets up trade war with China White House won't move forward with billions in foreign aid cuts MORE (R-S.C.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisThe United States broken patent system is getting worse Gun reform groups to pressure GOP senators with rallies in all 50 states To cash in on innovation, remove market barriers for advanced energy technologies MORE (R-N.C.) also signed the letter.

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

Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSchumer blasts 'red flag' gun legislation as 'ineffective cop out' McConnell faces pressure to bring Senate back for gun legislation Shaken Portman urges support for 'red flag' laws after Ohio shooting 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 Owen McCarthyRepublicans suffer whiplash from Trump's erratic week Steve King defends remarks on rape, incest Omar says US should reconsider aid to Israel MORE (R-Calif.) told Fox News over the weekend.

House Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseRepublicans suffer whiplash from Trump's erratic week Manchin: Trump has 'golden opportunity' on gun reforms Sunday shows - Trump's Epstein conspiracy theory retweet grabs spotlight 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 DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenate Democrats push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility House panel investigating decision to resume federal executions To combat domestic terrorism, Congress must equip law enforcement to fight rise in white supremacist attacks MORE (Ill.).