Special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, should look into reports that President Donald Trump called for his ouster, said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Sunday.
Graham, appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” said Mueller should take seriously a story in The New York Times on Thursday saying Trump wanted to fire Mueller last June.
Trump reportedly directed White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller, but backed off after McGahn threatened to quit over the order. The president has since denied the The New York Times story, telling reporters as he arrived Friday at the site of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the report was “fake news.”
“I don’t know if the story is true or not, but I know this, Mueller should look at it,” Graham said, before adding that the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election “needs to go forward without political interference, and I’m sure it will.”
Graham was just one of several lawmakers and Trump administration officials making the Sunday talk show rounds who were asked to weigh in on the reports Trump wanted to fire Mueller.
Marc Short, White House legislative affairs director, said on “Fox News Sunday”: “I know that the president’s been frustrated by this investigation. He feels like there’s been millions of dollars in taxpayer dollars spent, and no evidence yet of collusion.”
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told NBC’s “Meet the Press” he was unaware of any efforts by the president to fire Mueller and said the White House has been fully cooperating with the Russia probe.
When asked if he thought there should be legislative safeguards put in place to prevent Trump from upending Mueller’s probe, McCarthy said, “I don’t think there’s a need for legislation right now.”
“If there’s an issue that arises then we’ll take it up at that time, but right now there isn’t an issue,” McCarthy said.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) dismissed reports that Trump called for Mueller’s termination.
“That’s New York talk,” Manchin said told “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd. “I look at it strictly as the New York language they have that’s different than most other people.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), speaking on CNN’s “State of The Union,” said the president should avoid discussing the Russia probe openly.
“I think the president would be best served by never discussing the investigation. Ever. Whether in tweets, except in private conversations with his attorney,” Collins said.
Collins, appearing later in the day on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” emphasized that the only person who could fire Mueller, is Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who took the lead in appointing Mueller after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation.
Former special counsel Ken Starr, who led the 1990s probe that revealed Bill Clinton’s affair with a White House intern, told ABC’s “This Week” he believed there could be grounds for impeachment if Trump were found to be lying about calling for Mueller to be fired.
“I think lying to the American people is a serious issue that has to be explored,” Starr said.
On “Meet the Press,” former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Mueller should be trusted to run an objective probe.
“People need to be prepared that a guy like Bob Mueller may come to a different conclusion that will elate some people and anger some people. . . . but . . . I have total confidence in him,” Gates said.