- Republicans and Democrats distanced themselves from President Donald Trump on the firing of deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe on Friday and his lawyer’s statement over the weekend that the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller should come to an end.
- One lawmaker called it “a horrible day for democracy.”
- Trump had been talking about firing McCabe for weeks, and has tried to fire Mueller in the past.
Following a whirlwind weekend – in which Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe a day before he was set to retire and President Donald Trump’s lawyer called on special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation to end – lawmakers from both parties broke with Trump on Sunday.
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio slammed the process by which McCabe, who was set to retire this weekend, was let go by Sessions on Friday.
“I don’t like the way it happened,” Rubio told NBC’s Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press.” “He should have been allowed to finish through the weekend.”
Rubio pointed out that despite allegations of misconduct on McCabe’s part, a more appropriate process should have been followed.
“There’s an Inspector General report that’s due and work that’s being done,” Rubio said, “and after he had retired that report would have indicated wrongdoing or something that was actionable, there’s things that could’ve been done after the fact. But you know, 48 hours to go before retirement, I would have certainly done it differently.”
McCabe was forced out of the FBI earlier this year amid an internal investigation by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) into his approval of unauthorised disclosures to the media in October 2016 related to the bureau’s Hillary Clinton email probe.
The Department of Justice inspector general reportedly concluded in a report that McCabe was not forthcoming during the OIG review. The FBI Office of Personal Responsibility subsequently recommended that Sessions fire McCabe.
Trump had been calling for McCabe’s ouster since last year.
“How can FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, the man in charge, along with leakin’ James Comey, of the Phony Hillary Clinton investigation (including her 33,000 illegally deleted emails) be given $US700,000 for wife’s campaign by Clinton Puppets during investigation?” Trump tweeted in December.
Sen. Lindsey Graham joined Rubio, and advocated a softer approach, despite McCabe’s missteps.
“I think we owe it to the average American to have a hearing in the Judiciary Committee where Attorney General Sessions comes forward with whatever documentation he has about the firing, and give Mr. McCabe a chance to defend himself,” Graham said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I believe, when it comes to this issue, we need as much transparency as possible to make sure it wasn’t politically motivated.”
Sen. Trey Gowdy, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, said he would wait to make a final judgment on McCabe once the facts of his case were in the open.
“I don’t know what he did … all the facts will come up,” he told host Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.” “It’s pretty unfair of us to speculate.”
Gowdy and his fellow Republican committee members recently put out a draft report saying their investigation had found no collusion between Trump and Russia. Democrats on the committee, led by ranking Democratic member Rep. Adam Schiff, said they had “ample” evidence of collusion.
He said Trump’s “badgering” of Sessions to fire McCabe was inappropriate, and accused the president of systematically targeting anyone who backed up former FBI Director James Comey, who Trump fired in May.
“McCabe, and every other of the James Comey associates … who corroborate James Comey on the issue of potential obstruction of justice – every one of them has been targeted by the administration,” Schiff told ABC’s host George Stephanopoulos on “This Week.”
Sen. Dick Durbin, also a Democrat, was even more direct in his language.
“Make no mistake Chris, it was in December that President Trump announced: We have 90 days to get McCabe before he retires,” Durbin told Wallace. “He put out basically a hit on him.”
Shortly after McCabe was fired, Trump took to Twitter to celebrate his departure.
“Andrew McCabe FIRED,” the president tweeted early Saturday morning, “a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI – A great day for Democracy. Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!
Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, who has long been a Trump critic, was quick to shoot back at the president.
“Well, when the president said it was a great day for democracy yesterday, I think it was a horrible day for democracy,” Flake told CNN host Jake Tapper on Sunday. “To have firings like this happening at the top, from the president and the attorney general, does not speak well for what’s going on.”
Lawmakers rally around Mueller
Trump’s lawyer John Dowd said on Saturday that the Mueller probe should be shut down, and although he eventually walked back his statement and said it did not represent the president’s views, hours later, Trump himself tweeted that the investigation “should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime.”
But lawmakers pushed back on the Sunday morning talks shows, with Flake coming out swinging. He said Trump seems to be building toward trying to fire Mueller.
“I just hope it doesn’t go there, because it can’t,” Flake told Tapper. “We can’t, in Congress, accept that. And so I would expect to see considerable pushback in the next couple days in urging the president not to go there. He can’t go there.”
Graham echoed his colleague’s strong statement.
“The only reason Mr. Mueller could ever be dismissed is for cause,” Graham told Tapper. “I see no cause when it comes to Mr. Mueller. He needs to be able to do his job independent of any political influence. I pledge to the American people as a Republican, to ensure that Mr. Mueller can continue to do his job without any interference.”
Graham added that despite his party allegiance, Trump would be treading on thin ice with both parties if he moved against Mueller.
“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.
Gowdy said that if the president fires Mueller, he’ll be in for a difficult year.
“I think the president’s attorney, frankly, does him a disservice when he says that and when he frames the investigation that way,” Gowdy told “Fox News Sunday.” “If you have an innocent client, Mr. Dowd, act like it.”
Durbin put things in slightly starker terms.
“I think quite honestly, Chris, if the president reaches out and stops this investigation, that is a constitutional crisis in this country,” he told Wallace. “That’s been said by Democrats and Republicans alike.”
Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown said lawmakers from both parties could speak up more against Trump in the months to come.
“I think at some point,” he told Todd, “Republicans enablers in the House and the Senate are going to say things publicly that they have said privately.”
Trump had apparently tried to fire Mueller last year, but was stopped when White House lawyer Don McGahn threatened to quit if he did.
Watch clips from the lawmakers’ interviews below:
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