WASHINGTON – Congressional Democrats want to ensure special counsel Robert Mueller stays on the job.
Mueller, who is looking into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, has been hammered by critics inside and outside the Trump administration who accuse him of bias.
Last week, 171 House Democrats, including most of the Minnesota delegation, fired off a letter of support for Mueller, calling for measures to protect the special counsel against any attempts to fire him.
“This investigation is integral to fully understanding the Russian attack on our 2016 election, to learning how to better safeguard our electoral process, and to helping restore the American people’s faith in our democracy,” said Rep. Tim Walz, who joined other House Democrats at a news conference Thursday in support of Mueller. “It should continue unimpeded and follow the facts wherever they lead.”
Walz is one of three Minnesota House members who have signed on to the so-called Special Counsel Independence Protection Act, which calls for strict limits on the grounds for firing a special counsel.
President Donald Trump has said repeatedly that he has no plans to fire Mueller, a former FBI director and a Republican, who has been leading the Justice Department’s Russia probe since May.
But his allies and attorneys have worked to tar the investigation as biased and politically motivated.
Congressional lawmakers from both parties have generally called for the investigation to run its course. But to some, the steady drumbeat of criticism (earlier this month, the president’s lawyers accused Mueller of illegally obtaining e-mails from his transition team) could lay the groundwork for a future move against Mueller by the administration.
Congressional Republicans have also called for protections for Mueller, although legislation the Senate GOP offered this summer to protect the special counsel still had not passed by the end of the year.
Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minn., issued a brief statement Thursday in support of keeping Mueller on the job, as Congress headed home for the holidays.
“The president said he has no plans to fire Mueller,” Paulsen said through a spokesman, “and it would be a mistake for him to do so.”
Minnesota’s other two Republicans in Congress, Reps. Tom Emmer and Jason Lewis, did not respond to requests for comment on Mueller’s investigation or status.
But Minnesota’s Democratic lawmakers were quick to caution the administration not to move against Mueller.
“It’s clear Special Prosecutor Mueller is doing his job and following the facts, and we should continue to allow him to do that without any interference by Congress or the Administration. We owe it to our democracy to ensure Mueller has the independence to fully carry out his work without the threat of being fired,” Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement.
“Special Counsel Robert Mueller has a resounding vote of confidence from both Republicans and Democrats, and we should let him do his work and let the investigation run its course,” Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan agreed. “In the meantime, I urge the President to focus on the people’s business and getting things done for everyday Americans.”
Despite administration assurances, activists are making plans for last-minute street protests, just in case Mueller gets fired.
“Firing the special counsel without cause would create a constitutional crisis in America,” said Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum, one of three Minnesota cosponsors of the protection act. “Congress would have no choice but to exercise its duty to act independently and hold President Trump accountable for his actions.”