Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., chair of the Senate Republican Caucus, speaks with reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, July 24, 2013.
Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP

GOP senator: It’s time to ‘move on’ from Trump’s Russia scandal

As Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Russia scandal intensified in the spring and summer, a variety of Republicans responded to the controversy by calling for the probe to end. Vice President Mike Pence, for example, said in May, “In the interests of the country, I think it’s time to wrap it up.”

A month later, House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) was a little more colorful on this point, directing a message to Mueller during a committee debate, saying, “Whatever you got, finish it the hell up.” A month after that, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) appeared on “Meet the Press” and added, “I think the Mueller investigation ought to be brought to an end…. We do need to wrap it up.”

Thankfully, federal investigators ignored the rhetoric and the probe continued. But in the wake of Mueller’s latest criminal charge – Michael Cohen pleaded guilty yesterday to lying about the proposed Trump Tower Moscow project – some Republicans are once again eager to pull the plug.

Take, for example, the latest comments from Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who’ll soon become the #2 member of the Senate Republican leadership.

“I don’t think at this point that there has been anything that, in any way, changes the landscape, so to speak, where the president is concerned,” Thune said in an interview with Fox News Thursday. “He has argued all along there wasn’t any collusion on the part of his campaign team or his administration with Russia. And I haven’t seen anything that disproves that.”

Thune added that the Mueller probe should be thorough and complete, but can’t go on forever. He said Trump has important work to do for the American people and it is time to “move on.”

“And the longer these things drag on, it just, it gets, I think, very wearing on the American people,” he said.

Ah, yes, the weary American public couldn’t possibly withstand the rigors of this investigation. Thank goodness we have John Thune looking out for us.

Donald Trump, meanwhile, added this morning, “This is an illegal Hoax that should be ended immediately.”

No, actually, it shouldn’t.

Ken White, a former federal prosecutor, wrote a great piece for The Atlantic yesterday, highlighting the significance of Michael Cohen’s plea yesterday: “The president of the United States’ personal lawyer admitted to lying to Congress about the president’s business activities with a hostile foreign power, in order to support the president’s story. In any rational era, that would be earthshaking….. These are the sorts of developments that would, under normal circumstances, end a presidency.”

The Washington Post also published an important report overnight summarizing the current circumstances.

In two major developments this week, President Trump has been labeled in the parlance of criminal investigations as a major subject of interest, complete with an opaque legal code name: “Individual 1.”

New evidence from two separate fronts of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation casts fresh doubts on Trump’s version of key events involving Russia, signaling potential political and legal peril for the president. Investigators have now publicly cast Trump as a central figure of their probe into whether Trump’s campaign conspired with the Russian government during the 2016 campaign.

Together, the documents show investigators have evidence that Trump was in close contact with his lieutenants as they made outreach to both Russia and WikiLeaks – and that they tried to conceal the extent of their activities.

It’s against this backdrop that Trump and some of his allies are effectively arguing, “Well, there’s nothing more to see here. Let’s call it a day.”

Um, no.