Sen. Lindsey Graham wants President Donald Trump to know he has not changed his mind on the potential consequences of any effort to push Special Counsel Robert Mueller out of his job. “As I have said before, if he tried to do that, that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency, because we’re a rule of law nation,” Graham said on CNN. “When it comes to Mr. Mueller, he is following the evidence where it takes him. And I think it’s very important he be allowed to do his job without interference. And there are many Republicans who share my view.”
With those words, Graham was repeating a sentiment he first expressed in late January when he and other Republicans were pushing for legislation that would prevent a president form firing a special counsel. And although several other Republicans spoke up in support of the special counsel after Trump shifted tactics and directly targeted Mueller by name in two weekend tweets, few really gave any details of how they could protect the integrity of the ongoing investigation.
The harshest criticism came from those who have not hesitated to speak up against Trump in the past. Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, for example, said that Trump certainly “seems to be building toward” firing Mueller “and I just hope it doesn’t go there, because it can’t. We can’t in Congress accept that.”
Sen. John McCain also joined his fellow Republicans in calling for Mueller’s independence to be respected. In a tweet, McCain said Mueller “has served our country with honesty and integrity” and now must “be allowed to complete a thorough investigation.”
Despite the words of support for Mueller though, Republicans didn’t reveal any sort of plans in place to protect the special counsel if Trump does decide to act against him. Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan delivered a decidedly lukewarm message through his spokeswoman AshLee Strong: “As the speaker has always said, Mr. Mueller and his team should be able to do their job.”
Rep. Trey Gowdy also joined the lukewarm club, urging Trump to let Mueller continue his probe but also saying: “I’m not sure the House can do a lot.” As far as Gowdy is concerned, it is the Senate that really has the power to do something about the issue. Gowdy did reserve his harshest words not for Trump but for his personal lawyer, John Dowd, who had called for an end to the probe. “I think the president’s attorney, frankly, does him a disservice when he says that and when he frames the investigation that way,” Gowdy said. “If you have an innocent client, Mr. Dowd, act like it.”