GOP lawmakers offered a muted response on Sunday to the prospect of PresidentDonald Trumppushing for the removal of special counsel Robert Mueller as head of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The questions came on the heels of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’firing of FBI deputy director Andrew McCabeon Friday, less than two days before McCabe was set to retire with full benefits. Most Republicans have opted not to weigh in on McCabe’s firing.
Trump’s attorney, John Dowd, on Saturday followed up on the move by urging the Justice Department toimmediately end the special counsel probe, leading many to speculate that Mueller’s job could be the next one in peril.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) didn’t appear to share those concerns during a Sunday interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Rubio offered cursory support for Mueller, while advising him against expanding the probe too widely.
Rubio expressed hope that the investigation “is going to arrive at the truth and is not going to go down rabbit holes that are not places that we need to be going.”
Some Republicans have cried foul at news that Mueller’s investigation has begun to look into Trump’s personal business ties to Russia, a move that has included asubpoena of the Trump Organization.
Mueller has also requested documents pertaining to the Trump campaign’s correspondence with data firm Cambridge Analytica, which ran the data operations for his White House bid and reportedlyviolated policies protecting the privacy of Facebook users.
Sen.@MarcoRubioon the Mueller investigation: “I remain confident that the Special Counsel is going to conduct a probe that is fair and thorough and is going to arrive at the truth and is not going to go down rabbit holes that are not places that we need to be going.”#MTP— Chuck Todd (@chucktodd) March 18, 2018
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) similarly downplayed the alarm over Mueller’s potential sacking, calling Dowd’s statement “not different than what an attorney does typically.”
In an interview on ABC’s “This Week,” the senator maintained that Trump would not have Mueller fired because the White House wants him “to be able to finish the investigation.”
But he alsoechoed Trump’s criticismof the composition of Mueller’s team, calling it “odd” that the former FBI chief had selected a number of Democrats.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” program, seemed even less perturbed by the prospect of Mueller’s firing.
When@jaketapperasks if he would be bothered if Trump fired Robert Mueller, Rand Paul says he “wouldn’t advocate for it.”— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) March 18, 2018
On the same show, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) offered a markedly different response, suggesting that if Trump pushed to remove Mueller, it would spur impeachment proceedings.
Lindsey Graham reiterates this to Trump when asked by@jaketapperabout the potential firing of Mueller. “If he tried to do that, that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency. We are a rule-of-laws nation. “— Manu Raju (@mkraju) March 18, 2018
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a persistent Trump critic, shared Graham’s view. He said on “State of the Union” that some of his Republican colleagues had told him they’d treat Mueller’s firing as a “massive red line that can’t be crossed.”
Democrats warned that any move to undercut the special counsel probe would serve as a threat to democracy.
“This would undoubtedly result in a constitutional crisis, and I think Democrats and Republicans need to speak out about this right now,” Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said on “This Week.” “Members need to speak out now, don’t wait for the crisis.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) issued a similar statement, accusing Trump of “floating trial balloons about derailing the Mueller investigation,”
“Our Republican colleagues, particularly the leadership, have an obligation to our country to stand up now and make it clear that firing Mueller is a red line for our democracy that cannot be crossed,” Schumer said.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.