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Trump Continues To Attack Special Counsel Mueller, Despite Republicans Advising Otherwise

Mar 19, 2018
Originally published on March 19, 2018 8:46 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Two men, Andrew McCabe and Robert Mueller, have featured prominently in President Trump's Twitter feed the past few days. Trump spent the weekend attacking the special counsel and the fired deputy FBI director, McCabe, after McCabe was fired late Friday night. Until now, Trump had refrained from tweeting about Mueller by name, but that changed this weekend. And that prompted the White House to send out assurances that the president is not considering firing Mueller.

Well, NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson is here. Hey, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hey, Mary Louise.

KELLY: All right, the president has made really clear for months now that he's not a fan of the Mueller investigation. He has been complaining about it. What changed over the weekend?

LIASSON: What changed is, as you mentioned - is this is the first time he attacked Mueller by name. Also, his outside lawyer, John Dowd, suggested that the Mueller investigation be ended. That's something new. Initially Dowd said he was speaking for the president. Then he backtracked and said he was just speaking for himself. But that seemed like a change in strategy because up until now, the president's lawyers have said they were cooperating with Mueller.

KELLY: And how are Republican lawmakers? Do they have the president's back as he increases these attacks on Mueller? What do they say?

LIASSON: Well, some of them do, but there's a range of reactions. And as usual, the ones that have spoken out most strongly warning the president against moving against Mueller are ones who are not running for re-election again like Jeff Flake or - here's Trey Gowdy, the Republican congressman from South Carolina.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY")

TREY GOWDY: I would just counsel the president it's going to be a very, very, long, bad 2018. And it's going to be distracting from other things that he wants to do and was elected to do. Let it play out its course. If you've done nothing wrong, you should want the investigation to be as fulsome and thorough as possible.

LIASSON: And he went on to say, if you have an innocent client, Mr. Dowd, act like it. Now, other Republicans like John Cornyn, who is a member of the Senate leadership, said it would be a mistake to fire Mueller. It could have unintended consequences. And as you said, the White House has gone out of their way today again to say that's not what the president is planning to do. And maybe the purpose of the president's tweet storm wasn't to lay the groundwork to fire Mueller but rather to undermine the credibility of the Mueller investigation.

KELLY: Help us understand how Andrew McCabe fits into all of this. We mentioned he was fired late Friday night. That was by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The president was celebrating the firing of McCabe. Why? How does he fit into this puzzle?

LIASSON: Well, he's been in the president's crosshairs for a long time. He's a potential witness in any obstruction of justice case because he talked to James Comey around the time of Comey's firing, and he took contemporaneous notes on his meeting with the president, as all FBI agents are trained to do.

KELLY: I should point out McCabe was not summarily fired. The Justice Department said he was found to have lied under oath multiple times. Let me play a little bit. This is House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and he's defending Jeff Sessions' decision to fire McCabe.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KEVIN MCCARTHY: An independent, nonpartisan inspector general found the information of McCabe lying, thought it was severe enough even before its final report came forward to send it to the FBI, send it to the ethics department of the FBI - the OPR, as you said, the Office of Professional Responsibility. They are nonpartisan, independent. They looked, and they believed he should be fired.

KELLY: Mara?

LIASSON: So there was a process. McCabe of course says he was made a scapegoat. But we don't know exactly why McCabe was fired because the IG's report hasn't been released yet.

KELLY: And where does all this go from here?

LIASSON: Well, the Mueller investigation continues. It's been reported that he has subpoenaed documents related to Russia from Trump's businesses. He's sent sample questions to the White House as part of the ongoing negotiations about if and how the president might be deposed. James Comey is about to go on a book tour.

KELLY: Yeah.

LIASSON: And we now know that the president has added a hard-charging former U.S. attorney to his legal team, Joe diGenova.

KELLY: Thanks, Mara.

LIASSON: Thank you.

KELLY: That's NPR's Mara Liasson. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.