By Seung Min Kim, The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan on Tuesday expressed confidence that special counsel Robert Mueller will be able to finish his Russia investigation unimpeded, despite President Donald Trump’s recent attacks on the probe.
The Wisconsin Republican also said he has been assured that Mueller’s firing is not imminent, although he declined to elaborate on who provided that assurance.
“Look, first of all, the special counsel should be free to follow through his investigation to its completion without interference, absolutely. I am confident he will be able to do that,” Ryan said at a news conference Tuesday morning. “I have received assurances that his firing is not even under consideration. We have a system based upon rule of law in this country. We have a justice system, and no one is above that justice system.”
White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short, who was on Capitol Hill Tuesday, also declined to comment when asked who might have assured Ryan that Trump would not seek to remove Mueller.
The president has ramped up his attacks against the ongoing special counsel investigation in recent days, calling out Mueller by name for the first time and falsely charging that the special counsel’s team contains no Republicans. Mueller is a Republican.
Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, has called for the end of the Russia probe, although he has said he was not speaking on behalf of the president. Another Trump attorney, Ty Cobb, said over the weekend that Trump is not considering or talking about firing the special counsel.
Trump’s heated rhetoric does not appear to have heightened concern among Republicans on Capitol Hill, at least publicly, who continue to say they don’t believe Trump would take steps to dismiss Mueller because doing so would be catastrophic.
Still, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., warned Tuesday that ousting Mueller would “probably” be an impeachable offense if Trump did so without cause.
“I think what the president will have done is stopped an investigation in whether or not his campaign colluded with the Russians, what effect the Russians had on the 2016 campaign,” Graham said on conservative host Hugh Hewitt’s radio show Tuesday morning. “I can’t see it being anything other than a corrupt purpose.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has repeatedly declined through aides to comment on Trump’s recent attacks on Mueller, but he will most likely address the matter at his news conference later Tuesday.
The Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis and Ed O’Keefe contributed to this report.