Late Monday, Donald Trump mused publicly about firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which meant there was quite a bit of chatter on Capitol Hill yesterday about what, if anything, lawmakers were prepared to do to shield the investigation from presidential interference.
Most congressional Republicans fell into one of two camps. The first group was made up of GOP lawmakers who shrugged off the president’s comments, assuming he was simply blowing off steam, and that the threat of Trump instigating such a crisis wasn’t real. The second group took the rhetoric a little more seriously, and indirectly warned Trump that even trying to fire Mueller would put his presidency in jeopardy.
But I was especially interested in the third group: the Republicans who aren’t just disinclined to support the special counsel’s work, but who are actually openly hostile toward it.
Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), for example, seemed surprised when asked about effort to shield the special counsel. “To protect Mueller?” the Georgia Republican said. “I think it’s about time we get to the end of [the] investigation. This looks like an investigation that’s spiraling out of control.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) went a little further.
The Kentucky Republican defended Trump on Fox News, saying Tuesday that the FBI’s raid on the president’s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen went too far, and took aim at special prosecutor Robert Mueller as a result.
“What does this have to do with Russia?” Paul said on Fox News. “Going after someone’s personal attorney is a great overstep I think in the authority of the prosecutor … I think that Mueller has abused his authority.”
To the extent that reality matters, Mueller didn’t execute the search warrants on Cohen’s office and hotel; the U.S. attorney’s office in New York did.
But even putting that aside, it’s hard not to see this and think of the members of Congress who lashed out at Archibald Cox in 1973.
Look, Rand Paul doesn’t have the foggiest idea what was in the search warrants or what crimes Cohen may have committed. Neither do I. But we do know those warrants were endorsed by Trump’s Justice Department, the U.S. attorney’s office, and a federal judge.
Maybe something will come of this, maybe not. Perhaps Cohen will face criminal charges, perhaps he’ll be exonerated. Time will tell.
But the point is, the Kentucky Republican is sticking his neck out a bit, assuming that federal law enforcement abused its power – based on nothing.
If the White House’s allies are going to accuse the special counsel of “abusing his authority,” they’ll have to do better than this.