GOP leaders give Trump a pass on Mueller attacks

Source: Politico | March 19, 2018 | Rachael Bade, Burgess Everett and Kyle Cheney

Unless the president tries to fire the special counsel, Republicans will probably remain hands off.

As far as Republican leaders on Capitol Hill are concerned, Donald Trump can say whatever he wants about Robert Mueller and his Russia probe — as long as he doesn’t fire him.

The president’s decision to go after the special counsel by name for the first time — and hire a lawyer who’s accused the FBI of conspiring against the president — has been met with a collective shrug by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

And there’s little to suggest that posture will change. Beyond Ryan’s spokeswoman reiterating on Sunday that Mueller’s investigators should “be able to do their job,” Republican leaders have remained silent as Trump escalated his attacks on the Russia investigation. The issue didn’t even surface at a House Republican Conference meeting or the Senate GOP leadership huddle on Monday evening.

And the leaders are expected to refrain from criticizing the president Tuesday at news conferences, even as they say they support an independent probe.

The muted reaction showed yet again that if Trump is trying to test the boundaries of his opposition to the Russia probe — some critics fretted during Trump’s weekend tweetstorm that a Saturday Night Massacre-like housecleaning might be in the offing — he’s unlikely to get much resistance from congressional Republicans until the deed is done.

“I don’t see the necessity of picking that fight,” said No. 2 Senate Republican John Cornyn of Texas. Cornyn said leaders have sent a back-channel message to the White House that Trump must not fire Mueller. But he seemed resigned to Trump’s deepening attacks on the special counsel: “I can’t control that. That’s his decision. I don’t think it’s helpful.”

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