Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz On FBI Russia Probe
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
The New York Times reported this week President Trump wanted to fire special counsel Robert Mueller in June, just a month after he began to lead an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. White House counsel Don McGahn said he would resign if the president did that. Now this report has since been matched by reporting from The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and other news organizations. The White House denies the reports. Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, has called for the firing of Mr. Mueller many times. And he joins us now.
Representative Gaetz, thanks so much for being with us.
MATT GAETZ: Good morning.
SIMON: And why do you think Mr. Mueller should be fired?
GAETZ: Well, I think there have been a number of instances when bias has been demonstrated within the Mueller probe; also, the manner in which the team has been put together, the relationship between Mr. Mueller and Mr. Comey; and then finally, some of the details of the intelligence memo that we hope is made public this week would seem to indicate that no prosecution could ever be brought from the Mueller probe. And thus, its utility has been outlived.
SIMON: Could you cite a single example of bias?
GAETZ: Sure. Andrew Weissman, the No. 2 member of the Mueller probe, attended the Hillary Clinton election night party. You would think with all the talented prosecutors to be asked throughout the federal system, we could likely assemble a team without having to pick the people who were engaged in the 2016 election to the extent that they would be at one of the candidates' election night parties.
SIMON: Well, I mean - A, I don't know that; B, so he attended a party - I mean, public officials, like reporters - for example, I think in many ways, like representatives in Congress, who are supposed to be capable of independent and unbiased judgment when it comes to doing their jobs.
GAETZ: But members of Congress don't end up prosecuting people. And, you know, when you're dealing with a prosecution and potentially, you know, here, with the president the United States being investigated, I would think that you would want to avoid even the appearance of bias. And here, the bias seems to be significant. It's also laid out in the text messages between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.
GAETZ: Those were two people on the Mueller probe. And their bias I don't think is disputable.
SIMON: Well, I've read a lot of those text messages. They have personal opinions. But nothing in those text messages suggests that they were bringing any kind of bias to their official duty, which is what counts.
GAETZ: Well, that's not true. They talked about an insurance policy. And when you talk about, you know, people being an insurance policy against a presidential victory for Donald Trump, that would seem to indicate not only a personal belief but an actual plan...
GAETZ: ...To turn that belief into some...
GAETZ: ...Sort of official action.
SIMON: I thought that was an ironic comment. But let me ask you overall - if the president were to bounce Robert Mueller now, wouldn't this fit a pattern of obstruction of justice?
GAETZ: I don't think the president should fire Robert. But I think the attorney general should. I think that, you know, the concerns that many people have expressed, both on the Republican and Democratic side, that the president making that decision would be unwise and would certainly create concerns within sort of the fundamental fabric of our democracy - I would agree with that. I think that's the attorney general's job.
SIMON: Well - but even if the attorney general did it, wouldn't that seem to suggest that he's trying to cover up the facts, that there's something to hide?
GAETZ: Absolutely not. The attorney general could fire Robert Mueller and could, you know, assemble a team of people...
SIMON: The attorney general has agreed to recuse himself, we should remember. Right?
GAETZ: And that's also a pretty poor decision in my opinion. I don't think there was any legal basis for that recusal. I also don't think there really is a clear understanding of what that recusal covers or doesn't cover in the questioning that we did of the attorney general...
SIMON: Oh, I'm sure it would cover him not firing Mr. Mueller. I mean, I'm not a legal expert. But you recuse yourself from those events, and it would seem to me that guarantees it. I'm afraid we're out of time. I'm sorry to step on you, Mr. Gaetz. But I do thank you very much for joining us in a busy week.
GAETZ: Thanks for having me.
SIMON: Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.