U.S. Senator Mark Warner has spoken out about what he calls “a growing chorus of irresponsible and reckless” voices calling for an end to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of ties between Russia and President Donald Trump’s election campaign, saying such a move “has the potential to provoke a constitutional crisis.”
Warner, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Wednesday in a speech on the Senate floor that firing the special counsel or any other “top brass involved in this investigation would not only call into question this administration’s commitment to the truth, but also to our most basic concept of rule of law.”
He expressed concern that critiques of the investigation “seem to be growing in stridency and volume” and seemed “coordinated” in recent weeks. “Any attempt by this president to remove special counsel Mueller from his position, or to pardon key witnesses in any attempt to shield them from accountability or shut down the investigation, would be a gross abuse of power,” Warner said.
White House lawyer Ty Cobb said Wednesday the Trump administration has no plans to fire Mueller. “If the media is going to continue to ask for responses to every absurd and baseless rumor, attention-seeking partisans will continue to spread them,” Cobb said. Earlier this year, the U.S. intelligence community released a report that stated Russia had meddled in the election, showing a preference for Trump over Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Russia denies meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and Trump has denied any collusion.
Warner’s remarks follow several weeks of rumors that the Trump administration may try to remove Mueller from the probe. On Sunday, Trump told reporters he is not considering firing Mueller, although his lawyers have accused the special counsel of illegally collecting tens of thousands of emails from Trump’s presidential transition team.
In his remarks denying that firing Mueller was under consideration, Trump repeated once again that “there’s no collusion” with Russia. The emails in question came from the computers of 13 senior Trump transition officials, covering the period just after Trump’s election to Inauguration Day, January 20.
Mueller’s monthslong investigation has already resulted in guilty pleas from two Trump aides, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and foreign adviser George Papadopoulos, for lying to federal investigators about their contacts with Russian officials. The investigation has also led to the indictments of two former key campaign officials, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates.
Trump has regularly disparaged the Mueller and congressional investigations of his campaign’s links to Russia, and Republicans have increasingly criticized the Mueller probe as biased against Trump. Mueller dismissed one key FBI investigator from the probe when it was discovered he had exchanged negative comments about Trump in emails with another FBI official connected to the probe.
Mueller is also investigating whether Trump obstructed justice by firing his successor, former FBI Director James Comey, in May. Mueller is also investigating whether Trump obstructed justice by firing his successor, former FBI Director James Comey, in May.