Senate Republican leaders sharply warned President Donald Trump not to fire Robert Mueller III on Tuesday – but they once again stopped short of embracing legislation to protect the special counsel.
Their reluctance to take more forceful action came as Democratic leaders voiced new urgency to shield Mueller a day after Trump said he had been encouraged by some to dismiss the special counsel. At least one rank-and-file Republican endorsed moving forward soon with a bill to protect him.
But Senate GOP leaders were not budging from their position against taking preventive action, underscoring the downside they have long seen in being too confrontational against the leader of their party. Even at moments of great uncertainty about what Trump will do next, congressional Republican leaders have opted not to further agitate him.
“I haven’t seen clear indication yet that we needed to pass something to keep him from being removed, because I don’t think that’s going to happen,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. McConnell did not elaborate on why he believed that.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, his top deputy, said he also didn’t believe Mueller would be removed. Asked why, he replied, “I think the consequences of doing so are some that not even the president can anticipate. And I think it would be a mistake.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, issued Trump a sharper warning. He said on Fox Business Network it would be “suicide for the president to want, to talk about firing Mueller.” Grassley said the less the president said about it, “the better off he would be, the stronger his presidency would be.”