WASHINGTON – Leaders in the U.S. Senate, including one of the two senators from Texas, have spent the past two days issuing a warning to President Donald Trump: Do not fire special counsel Robert Mueller.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the Senate majority whip, was the top-ranking Republican on Monday to warn Trump against such action, telling Politico that “the consequences would be so overwhelming.”
His colleagues stepped up the rhetoric on Tuesday.
“Bob Mueller should be allowed to finish his job,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters on Tuesday, referring to Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Two other Republican senators suggested impeachment could be in the cards for Trump if he pursued such an action.
However, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who worked for Mueller earlier in his career at the Justice Department, took a different stance.
“I have a longstanding rule of thought, which is that I don’t comment about tweets, and I won’t comment about the random comment of the day,” Cruz told the Tribune Tuesday afternoon. “I’m happy to talk about policy or substance. I’m happy to talk about tax reform or regulatory reform or Obamacare or judges, but I’m not going to focus on the political circus of Washington.”
Later in the day, Cruz told HLN that he understands "the growing concern that the special counsel may be a partisan fishing exercise" and reiterated previously voiced concerns that some of the lawyers working for Mueller are Democratic donors.
The current focus on whether Trump may fire Mueller followed comments from one of Trump’s lawyers over the weekend and tweets from the president himself about Mueller's investigation. Those comments spurred some Democrats to push for the quick passage of legislation to explicitly protect Mueller's investigation.
The proposed vehicle would be a massive spending bill Congress is expected to try to pass at the end of the week to avoid a government shutdown. Republicans largely rebuffed those attempts.
"I don't think that's going to happen so I just think it's not necessary, and obviously legislation requires a presidential signature,” Cornyn told the Associated Press on Tuesday. “I don't see the necessity of picking that fight right now."
That bill is expected to be the last major piece of legislation to pass this Congress ahead of the midterm elections.
As such, the past two days marked a mad scramble of legislators trying to attach pet legislation on the must-pass bill.
There is some hope that a Cornyn-sponsored bill that would enhance background checks for prospective gun buyers might be attached to the bill and see passage.
Politico reported Tuesday that Democrats were offering more border wall funding in exchange for freezing the hiring of immigration enforcement officials.
But the omission of one particular measure left Cruz deeply unhappy. He, along with Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, since December have pushed a measure to reform how sexual harassment allegations are processed within Congress.
“I’m a co-author of the legislation, I joined with Kirsten Gillibrand, and the two of us introduced it together,” Cruz said. “So I believe we should pass Gillibrand-Cruz through whatever vehicle is necessary to get it passed, or as a free-standing piece of legislation.
“If we bring it to the floor, I believe we have more than sufficient votes to pass Gillibrand-Cruz, and I intend to continue fighting to do so,” he said.
Patrick Svitek contributed to this report.