Republican Lawmakers Say Mueller Needs No Protection Top Republicans on Capitol Hill say they are confident that President Trump will not try to fire special counsel Robert Mueller.

Republican Lawmakers Say Mueller Needs No Protection

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Congressional Republicans are making it clear they will not take any steps to protect special counsel Robert Mueller from getting fired. Here's Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

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MITCH MCCONNELL: Yeah. I just don't think it's necessary. I don't think Bob Mueller is going anywhere.

CHANG: Some lawmakers would like to include legislation to protect Mueller into a must-pass spending bill coming up this week. But Republicans say that is off the table. NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis joins us now to talk about all this. Hey, Sue.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.

CHANG: So all right. Most Republicans say they support Mueller's Russia investigation, so what's the resistance to passing legislation to protect the investigation from White House interference?

DAVIS: We hear a pretty familiar posture from congressional Republicans who say they're just not that worried about the things that the president tweets, specifically his criticisms of Mueller over the weekend. This is what House Speaker Paul Ryan had to say today to reporters.

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PAUL RYAN: The special counsel should be free to follow through his investigation to its completion without interference. Absolutely. I am confident that he'll be able to do that. I've received assurances that his firing is not even under consideration. We have a system based upon the rule of law in this country. We have a justice system. And no one is above that justice system.

DAVIS: So the speaker echoed Mitch McConnell's confidence, although I should note he did not tell us who gave him these assurances. But White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders today from the White House podium said the president does not have any plans to fire Robert Mueller.

CHANG: Why are Republicans so confident about this? Because just this past weekend, the president stepped up his attacks on the Russia probe, on Mueller himself.

DAVIS: You know, they do brush off the president's tweets on a fairly regular basis up here. I do think the one thing I have heard repeatedly from Republicans is that they think that the White House does understand that the political consequences for President Trump would be severe. Senator Lindsey Graham - he's a Republican from South Carolina. He was on Hugh Hewitt's radio show this morning. And he said if the president were to try and fire Mueller without cause, he would consider that, in his words, an impeachable offense. Here's what he told Hugh Hewitt.

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LINDSEY GRAHAM: I can't think of a more upsetting moment in the rule of law to have a investigator looking at a president's campaign as to whether or not they colluded with a foreign government, what kind of crimes they may have committed. I've seen no evidence of collusion, but to stop the investigation without cause - I think it would be a constitutional crisis.

DAVIS: Graham is not alone in thinking about how severe that would be. Other top Republicans in recent days - people like House oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy, Senate foreign relations Chairman Bob Corker and Senate finance Chairman Orrin Hatch have all publicly warned the president to cool it when it comes to Mueller. Orrin Hatch said it would be, in his words, the stupidest thing the president could do - to fire Mueller. One word of caution here - not all Republicans feel this way. Jeff Flake, Republican from Arizona, said, look; you know, the president also gave assurances about not firing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. And then he did it and gave Congress very little warning.

CHANG: Yeah. So Republicans are not willing to include any Mueller protections in this must-pass spending bill. How hard are Democrats going to fight that?

DAVIS: It's not that hard right now politically. You know, they're going to say they tried to do it, and Republicans blocked them. And that might be a good enough political win for Democrats at this moment. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer did give Mitch McConnell credit for saying that he backs Mueller's investigation and thinks he'll be fine. There are just a lot more pressing policy issues under debate right now before they can unveil what is going to be a $1.3 trillion spending bill for the rest of the year. They're trying to work out details on things affecting health care, potentially on guns and on border security. So we're eagerly awaiting that bill to figure out...

CHANG: Yeah.

DAVIS: ...When Congress is going to vote.

CHANG: Well, government funding runs out on Friday, and they're still not done negotiating. So here we are again.

DAVIS: (Laughter).

CHANG: Your favorite question, Sue - what are the chances of a government shutdown this week?

DAVIS: It doesn't seem like a real threat at this point. If anything, they may have to work into the weekend to make sure they can pass it before their planned two-week Easter recess.

CHANG: That's NPR's Susan Davis. Thanks, Sue.

DAVIS: You're welcome.

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