President Trump renewed speculation about the fate of the Russia investigation after the FBI raided the office of his personal attorney on Monday, saying in response to a question about firing special counsel Robert Mueller, “We’ll see.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told Fox Business Tuesday that if Trump did, “it would be suicide.”
“I have confidence in Mueller. The president ought to have confidence in Mueller,” Grassley said. “I think the less the president says about this whole thing, the better off he would be.”
Trump sounded off about Mueller before a meeting of military officials at the White House on Monday night after learning that the FBI had raided the office and hotel of his personal lawyer Michael Cohen. The New York Times reported that federal agents were looking for information related to Cohen’s hush-money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels on the eve of the 2016 presidential election, as well as possible payments to other women by Cohen or the National Enquirer.
“So I just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys, a good man, and it’s a disgraceful situation,” Trump began. “It’s a total witch hunt. I’ve been saying it for a long time.
“It’s an attack on our country, in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for,” Trump continued, saying the raids represent “a whole new level of unfairness.”
On CNN, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., dismissed the idea that the special counsel is on a “witch hunt.”
“I don’t see any reason to fire Mr. Mueller,” Graham said. “I know the president’s frustrated. He’s told me over and over he did nothing to collude with the Russians. He thinks this thing is running, you know, outside the boundaries here. But at the end of the day, Mueller needs to continue to do his job without political interference, and I think most members of Congress view it that way.”
But Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., accused Mueller of abusing his authority with the raids on Cohen.
“Going after someone’s personal attorney is a great overstep, I think, in the authority of the prosecutor,” Paul said on Fox News. “The president’s right: It’s a witch hunt.”
Paul was asked if he felt the same way about Ken Starr, the former Whitewater independent counsel, investigating President Bill Clinton’s relationship with Monica Lewinsky in the 1990s. “You know, I may not have been as consistent back then,” Paul replied.
Fox Business host Lou Dobbs, a close friend of Trump, said on Monday night that Mueller “is now a man that has to be brought under control.”
“I would fire the SOB in three seconds if it were me,” Dobbs added.
At the White House, Trump was asked by reporters why he doesn’t “just fire” Mueller.
“Well, I think it’s a disgrace what’s going on. We’ll see what happens. But I think it’s really a sad situation when you look at what happened. And many people have said, ‘You should fire him,’” Trump said. “So we’ll see what happens. I think it’s disgraceful, and so does a lot of other people. This is a pure and simple witch hunt.”
The president could take steps to remove the special counsel, but he would need the cooperation of Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general. It’s believed that Rosenstein, who reportedly threatened to quit because of the way the dismissal of FBI Director James Comey was handled, would not back such a move.
“The special counsel is not an unguided missile,” Rosenstein told USA Today last month. “I don’t believe there is any justification at this point for terminating the special counsel.”
On CNN Monday night, former Trump adviser Steve Cortes said Trump ought to clean house.
“The president needs to fire Jeff Sessions,” Cortes said. “He needs to fire Rosenstein. He needs to fire Mueller. This is a sham investigation. This is his own Justice Department trying to usurp the power of the presidency.”
“Any attempt to remove Rod Rosenstein will create the exact same constitutional crisis as if he fired special counsel Mueller,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said. “Don’t do it. Do not go down this path. For the sake of our country, we plead with you.”
Appearing on CNN Tuesday, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., said that if Trump were to move in the direction of removing Mueller, “certainly we’d be looking at some sort of constitutional crisis.”
On Capitol Hill, Republican leaders have resisted calls from Democrats to pass legislation that would protect the special counsel, saying there is no need to do so.
“Mueller should be allowed to finish his job,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters on Tuesday afternoon. “I haven’t seen a clear indication yet that we need to pass something to keep him from being removed because I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
“Our Republican colleagues say [the] President won’t fire Mueller,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., tweeted on Tuesday. “If they aren’t going to pass legislation to protect investigation, then they must tell us what they’re going to do if he does.”
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