WASHINGTON — Special Counsel Robert Mueller sent shockwaves through the nation’s capital Monday after revealing charges against three former Trump campaign officials. The indictments — made as part of an investigation of Russian influence on last year’s U.S. presidential election — drew cautious reactions for most of Texas’ congressional delegation.
But some weighed in on how Congress should react if President Donald Trump calls on his Justice Department to fire Mueller and effectively shut down the investigation.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the majority whip who also serves on the Judiciary and Intelligence committees, separated himself from the Mueller investigation. He declined to join the push to further protect Mueller as the investigation continues.
“Special counsel’s got his own responsibilities, and it doesn’t involve us,” he told The Washington Post.
“I think he knows what to do and he’s doing it,” he added.
Two top officials from Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, turned themselves in to authorities Monday in Washington and posted bail as they found themselves at the center of Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump campaign officials colluded with Russian intelligence officials.
Another former Trump campaign official, George Papadopoulos, cut a plea deal with authorities.
Most U.S. House members spent Monday in their home districts and were able to avoid national reporters. For the most part, Republican members were quiet on the matter. Democrats, however, were not.
U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, is a member of the House Intelligence Committee, which has its own investigation into possible collusion. He reacted with ire when White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the indictments “had nothing to do with the president” and suggested the charges would impact Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Democratic leadership sources told the Tribune that there is no appetite for impeachment chatter at this point. The sources said they saw no smoking gun and didn’t want to appear to be on a impeachment trajectory without substantive charges against the president.
As a result, most Democratic members across the country avoided the word “impeachment” and offered specific points, including a call for Congress to set up an independent commission to investigate Russian interference and a call for the president to not fire Mueller.
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, was one of the first members of the delegation to comment, stating: “Republicans should be sending a strong, public message to President Trump—‘any interference with this investigation is at your peril.’”
U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, serves on the House Judiciary Committee and similarly advocated for legislation condemning a would-be removal of Mueller.
U.S. Rep. Al Green, D-Houston, one of Trump’s most vocal critics, has called for Trump’s impeachment for months. On Monday morning, he tweeted: “Manafort and Gates have been indicted. Papadopoulos plead guilty. THIS is how you drain the swamp! #IndictmentDay#ImpeachTrump.”
The investigation also spread into Democratic circles.
Tony Podesta, a powerful Democratic lobbyist, stepped down from the leadership of his firm as multiple news outlets reported it was probably an unnamed lobbying outfit mentioned in the indictment as closely aligned with Manafort.
Ironically, Tony Podesta’s, brother John Podesta, was Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign chairman and the primary victim of the Russian email hacks last year.