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Trump wants GOP allies to 'take control' of Russia scandal probe

For months, Trump has privately urged Republicans to protect him from the Russia scandal investigation. Now, he's taking those pleas in a public direction.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump points at supporters after speaking at rally at the Verizon Wireless Center in Manchester, N.H., on Feb. 8, 2016. (Photo by Justin Lane/EPA)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump points at supporters after speaking at rally at the Verizon Wireless Center in Manchester, N.H., on Feb. 8, 2016.

We recently learned that Donald Trump, feeling the heat as the Russia scandal was intensifying last summer, personally urged Republican lawmakers to end congressional scrutiny of the controversy. The president's lobbying campaign targeted, among others, the Senate majority leader and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

As we discussed at the time, when Congress is investigating a scandal involving the president, the president isn't supposed to call lawmakers to pressure them to stop.

Yesterday, however, as Politico  noted, Trump took his lobbying campaign in a more public direction.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday urged Republicans in Congress to "take control" of the investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, prompting some head-scratching from a top GOP investigator on Capitol Hill."The single greatest Witch Hunt in American history continues," Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. "There was no collusion, everybody including the Dems knows there was no collusion, & yet on and on it goes. Russia & the world is laughing at the stupidity they are witnessing. Republicans should finally take control!"

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) was asked to respond to the president's plea. His answer wasn't exactly encouraging.

"I don't know what the president has in mind, and I don't think I better comment until I have a discussion with the president on that," Grassley told reporters on Capitol Hill yesterday.

The problem, of course, is that the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee isn't supposed to have a "discussion" with the president whose scandal is facing scrutiny from the Senate Judiciary Committee. Quickly realizing that he'd said the wrong thing, Grassley added, And I don't intend to have a discussion with the president on that point, and I hope he doesn't call me and tell me the same thing that you said he said."

At the end of the day, Trump seems to see GOP lawmakers as employees whom he can give instructions. The president probably recognizes the Trump-Russia scandal as an existential crisis for his presidency, and so he wants Republicans to "finally take control" of the investigation into the controversy in order to shield him from any consequences.

And for a moment, Chuck Grassley suggested he'd check with Trump to discuss what the president had in mind.

The Iowa Republican isn't exactly having a career moment right now. Grassley pulled a foolish stunt last week, sending a criminal referral to Christopher Steele to the Justice Department for reasons that didn't make any sense, and this week, he tried to keep the public from seeing a transcript of testimony from Glenn Simpson, the co-founder of Fusion GPS, which commissioned the Trump Russia dossier.

A Washington Post  report added yesterday, "Increasingly, the Democrats and Republicans on the [Senate Judiciary Committee] are going in different directions, with Grassley moving to investigate matters involving [Hillary] Clinton when she was secretary of state and [Sen. Dianne] Feinstein concentrating on Russian interference in the election."

With Grassley on the case, perhaps Trump's pleas for protection are necessary?