File photo of US President Donald Trump. Photograph:( Reuters )
Republican senators warned President Donald Trump on Sunday against firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller and said he must let federal investigators looking into Russian meddling in the US election do their jobs.
The Republican president has renewed his Twitter attacks on both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Mueller's probe since the firing on Friday of the bureau's former deputy director, Andrew McCabe, days before he was eligible to retire with a full pension.
Republican Senator Jeff Flake, who has criticized Trump, said it appeared the president's latest comments were aimed at the firing of Mueller.
"I don't know what the designs are on Mueller, but it seems to be building toward that, and I just hope it doesn't go there, because it can't. We can’t in Congress accept that," Flake told CNN's "State of the Union."
"So I would expect to see considerable pushback in the next couple of days urging the president not to go there. He can’t go there."
In a series of tweets over the weekend, Trump accused the FBI leadership of lies, corruption and leaking information. He called the Russia probe a politically motivated witch hunt.
"The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime," Trump said on Saturday. On Sunday, he attacked former FBI Director James Comey and McCabe, top officials who were involved in the Russia probe and subsequently fired.
On Saturday, Trump personal lawyer John Dowd urged the Justice Department official overseeing Mueller, Rod Rosenstein, to "bring an end to alleged Russia Collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe's boss James Comey."
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said it was very important that Mueller be allowed to proceed without interference and that many Republicans share this view.
"The only reason Mr. Mueller could ever be dismissed is for cause. I see no cause when it comes to Mr. Mueller," Graham said on CNN. "I pledge to the American people as a Republican, to ensure that Mr. Mueller can continue to do his job without any interference."
"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.
Senator Angus King, an independent, also warned Trump against trying to fire Mueller.
"This is a serious investigation, and if the president tries to terminate it prematurely, I think it will be a true constitutional crisis," he said on CBS.
Trump also drew criticism from fellow Republicans on Sunday over the firing of McCabe, who said he believed he was targeted because he corroborated Comey's claims that Trump tried to pressure Comey into killing the Russia probe.
"I don't like the way it happened. He should've been allowed to finish through the weekend," Senator Marco Rubio said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Rubio, who supports the special counsel probe, said the decision to fire McCabe was made before the release of the Justice Department inspector general's report that Attorney General Jeff Sessions cited in his dismissal.
Flake said the Senate Judiciary Committee would look at the report, which Sessions said concluded McCabe leaked information to reporters and misled investigators about his actions.
"I’m just puzzled by why the White House is going so hard at this, other than that they’re very afraid of what might come out," he said on CNN.