After helping to blow the lid off “shitholegate” by dropping coy hints about Trump’s foul language during a meeting with a bipartisan group of senators, South Carolina Senator and perennial Trump frenemy Lindsey Graham appeared on the Sunday shows today to defend his erstwhile rival.
In an interview with ABC’s “This Week”, Graham asserted that President Trump’s presidency would end if he did indeed fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, something the New York Times reported earlier this week almost happened – but White House Counsel Don McGahn III allegedly stymied the president by threatening to resign.
Graham and fellow Republican “moderate” Senator Susan Collins also urged Congress should move forward on bipartisan legislation preventing a president from firing a special counsel.
Graham’s remarks – which are sure to once again alienate the diminutive senator from the president – show the senator has the “utmost confidence” in Mueller, basically repudiating evidence of Mueller’s conflicts and what some perceive to be suspicious overzealousness that was not applied to Trump’s former rival, Hillary Clint. Read the full transcript.
Oh, yeah, if he fired Mueller without cause — I mean, Mueller is doing a good job. I have confidence in him to get to the bottom of all things Russia. And Don McGahn, if the story is true in The New York Times, did the right thing, and good news is the president listened.
I don’t know if the story is true or not, but I know this Mueller should look at it. I have complete confidence in Mr. Mueller. When he found two FBI agents had a bias against President Trump, he fired them. So, all this stuff about the FBI and DOJ having a bias against Trump and for Clinton needs to be looked at. But I have never believed it affected Mr. Mueller.
So I will do whatever it takes to make sure that Mr. Mueller can do his job. We’re a rule of law nation before President Trump, we’re going to be a rule of law nation after President Trump. I have never any — I haven’t yet seen any evidence of collusion between President Trump and the Russians, but the investigation needs to go forward without political interference and I’m sure it will.
Furthermore, Graham said that the NYT story – which the White House has vociferously denied – is something that “Mueller should look at,” suggesting the special counsel will likely include the question of whether Trump intended to fire him as part of an investigation that has pivoted to focusing on obstruction of justice, not the collusion issue that was long ago proven to be an obvious dead-end.
I don’t know. I believe it’s something that Mueller should look at. We’re not just going to say it’s fake news and move on. Mueller is the best person to look at it, not me opine about something I don’t know. I’m sure that there will be an investigation around whether or not President Trump did try to fire Mr. Mueller. We know that he didn’t fire Mr. Mueller. We know that if he tried to, it would be the end of his presidency.
Trump’s critics like to portray his sometimes boorish behavior as unprecedented in the history of the presidency. But in a thoughtful rebuttal, Graham pointed out that many previous American presidents – and not just Richard Nixon – have tried to discredit or silence their critics. Presidents including Bill Clinton.
GRAHAM: I think every president wants to get rid of critics. I mean, I remember the Ken Starr investigation, and Bill Clinton came out and said this guy spent millions of dollars and nothing to show for it.
Graham also said the American people are smart enough not to convict the president based on a news article, which…though that might be unreasonably optimistic.
GRAHAM: This is for Mr. Mueller to determine. We’re not going to stop looking at the president because he claims The New York Times’ was fake news. And we’re not going to convict him based on a news article. As a matter of fact, I think Mr. Mueller is the perfect guy to get to the bottom of all of this. And he will. And I think my job, among others, is to give him the space to do it. I intend to do that. I have got legislation protecting Mr. Mueller. And I’ll be glad to pass it tomorrow.
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As is often the case given the administration’s preoccupation with television news, more than one Trump ally showed up this weekend to answer the networks’ most pressing questions.
Another one this week was White House Legislative Director Marc Short, who appeared on CBS’s “Face the Nation” to flat out dispute the NYT report, which dominated the political news cycle during a week that also saw Trump impress his fellow leaders with a widely praised speech in Davos.
White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short said the president never “intimate that” he intended to fire Mueller – not to Short, or any of Short’s colleagues.
President Trump ordered the firing of Special Counsel Robert Mueller last year, saying at no time did the president “intimate that” to Short or any of his colleagues, according to a transcript.
MARC SHORT: Well, Nancy, the president’s never intimated to me in any way the desire to fire Mueller. I think that there’s been a lot of sensational reporting on that. Let’s keep in mind a few things. That report dates to some June conversation allegedly. We’re now in January. Mueller’s still special counsel. Don McGahn is still running the White House Counsel’s Office. Millions of dollars- of taxpayer dollars have been wasted on an investigation that so far has proven no collusion with the Russians.
Short then set his sights on the investigation, accusing Mueller of deliberately dragging out the process, and criticizing the prosecutor for overreaching by straying so far from the investigation’s stated goal.
Of course it’s not because it’s continuing to drag on. And it’s dragged on for a long time at a great expense with yet no evidence of Russian collusion. And so the reality is that Mueller’s still special counsel. McGahn is still head of the White House Counsel’s Office. The president’s never intimated to me in any way a desire to fire Robert Mueller.
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With Trump set to deliver his first State of the Union on Tuesday (last year’s speech to Congress wasn’t technically considered a “State of the Union ” address, just an address to a joint session of Congress, as is tradition for first-year presidents. So it’s likely that will dominate the Sunday shows next week, along with the political brinksmanship over the immigration-bill compromise that’s threatening to once again shutter the government.
With all this going on, can you believe it’s not even February yet?