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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 McConnellImmigration, executive action top Biden preview of first 100 days Spending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight McConnell pushed Trump to nominate Barrett on the night of Ginsburg's death: report MORE (R-Ky.) on Tuesday defended special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE as “thoroughly credible” as Senate Republicans pushed back on President TrumpDonald John TrumpMinnesota certifies Biden victory Trump tells allies he plans to pardon Michael Flynn: report Republican John James concedes in Michigan Senate race 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 SchumerUS national security policy in the 117th Congress and a new administration Voters say Biden should make coronavirus vaccine a priority: poll New York City subway service could be slashed 40 percent, officials warn 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 RyanPaul Ryan calls for Trump to accept results: 'The election is over' Bottom line Democratic anger rises over Trump obstacles to Biden transition 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 SessionsAlabama zeroes in on Richard Shelby's future Tuberville incorrectly says Gore was president-elect in 2000 Next attorney general must embrace marijuana law reforms MORE to appoint a second special counsel to investigate potential abuse by the FBI in the Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonIntercept DC bureau chief says Biden picks are 'same people' from Obama years The Hill's 12:30 Report - Third vaccine candidate with 90% efficacy Biden won — so why did Trump's popularity hit its highest point ever? 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 ThuneDemocrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Overnight Defense: Pentagon set for tighter virus restrictions as top officials tests positive | Military sees 11th COVID-19 death | House Democrats back Senate language on Confederate base names Trump keeps tight grip on GOP amid divisions 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 CollinsTwo more parting shots from Trump aimed squarely at disabled workers Trump transition order follows chorus of GOP criticism The Memo: Trump election loss roils right 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 CornynCornyn says election outcome 'becoming increasingly clear': report Top GOP senator: Biden should be getting intel briefings GOP senator congratulates Biden, says Trump should accept results MORE (Texas) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyRep. Rick Allen tests positive for COVID-19 On The Money: Biden to nominate Yellen for Treasury secretary | 'COVID cliff' looms | Democrats face pressure to back smaller stimulus Loeffler to continue to self-isolate after conflicting COVID-19 test results 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 GrahamSpokesperson says Tennessee Democrat made 'poor analogy' in saying South Carolina voters have extra chromosome Former Graham challenger Jaime Harrison launches political action committee The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience MORE (R-S.C.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisTeam Trump offering 'fire hose' of conspiracy Kool-Aid for supporters Loeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection North Carolina's Mark Walker expected to announce Senate bid MORE (R-N.C.) also signed the letter.

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

Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanBiden says transition outreach from Trump administration has been 'sincere' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump holds his last turkey pardon ceremony The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience 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 McCarthyRichmond says GOP 'reluctant to stand up and tell the emperor he wears no clothes' Sunday shows preview: Biden transition, COVID-19 spike in spotlight Drastic cuts proposed to Medicare would hurt health care quality MORE (R-Calif.) told Fox News over the weekend.

House Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseRichmond says GOP 'reluctant to stand up and tell the emperor he wears no clothes' New RSC chairman sees 'Trumpism' as future Cheney seeks to cool tensions with House conservatives 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 DurbinWhitehouse says Democratic caucus will decide future of Judiciary Committee The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience Durbin seeks to become top-ranking Democrat on Judiciary panel MORE (Ill.).