Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL) is upset that there was an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election because it took time and money — so he’s proposing legislation to require another costly and time-consuming probe to investigate that initial investigation.
Special counsel Robert Mueller spent almost two years investigating possible coordination between then-candidate Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia, as well as possible obstruction of justice by Trump and his team. While he did not find enough evidence to prove coordination, Mueller documented at least 10 episodes involving Trump which may have constituted obstruction.
Additionally, the tens of millions of dollars in assets seized as part of guilty pleas by Trump associates reportedly more than paid for the cost of the entire investigation. (While the exact cost of the Mueller investigation won’t be known until the final expense reports are filed later this year, it’s possible that the value of the assets seized from Paul Manafort alone — estimated to be between $42 and $46 million — could alone make it a profitable endeavor.)
That didn’t stop Byrne from decrying the Mueller probe as a “big fat goose egg.” Speaking with Fox News Tuesday morning, the Alabama congressman pointed to Attorney General William Barr’s decision days earlier to appoint a prosecutor to look into the origins of the investigation, saying it was the right move.
“I’m introducing a bill that will codify the investigation of the investigators that Attorney General Barr is presently undertaking and require a investigation in the future,” Byrne said, before laying out his objections to the very sort of unnecessary partisan investigations he is now demanding.
“We spent over two years, $35 million on the lawyers, investigators, paralegals, and for what? We got a big fat goose egg here,” he continued. “Mr. Mueller himself determined there was no collusion, no conspiracy. The attorney general concluded there is no obstruction. So we spent all this time and all this money for what? It was a partisan witch-hunt from the beginning and we need to get to the bottom.”
He added, “Who was behind this and how far up the chain does it go? What did President [Barack] Obama know, and when did he know it? Let’s have a full investigation of that.”
Byrne’s concern for protecting investigations appears to be one-sided. Just a year into the special counsel’s probe, the Alabama Republican demanded Mueller “wrap up his investigation” immediately. Earlier this year, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) introduced a bill to protect Mueller’s investigation from interference by Trump and his appointees. One Republican — the late Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) — joined 126 Democrats as co-sponsors; Byrne did not.
Last month, after Barr released a lightly redacted version of Mueller’s report, Byrne ironically said it was time for the country to put the entire matter behind it.
“It is time to move on,” he urged in a statement still posted on his official congressional website. “I hope the Democrat [sic] majority in the House will move past this embarrassing chapter in our history, call off their phony investigations, and stop the partisan political messaging so we can address issues that truly will benefit the American people.”