In the days since Special Counsel Robert Mueller charged three former Trump aides and allies, some have speculated about whether President Trump will fire Mueller.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday that Trump has “no intention or plan” to fire Mueller, but Trump has a habit of firing people who are investigating him. Should he fire Mueller, Congress could take action.
Four camps have basically emerged in among the Senate GOP specifically. First, there’s a group of 20 senators that is publicly supportive of Mueller and the investigation. A second, smaller group of seven senators has basically stayed neutral, with some complaining talking about Mueller distracts from their main priority, tax reform.
A third group of five senators are echoing Trump’s arguments, saying Manafort’s indictment has nothing to do with Trump or that Mueller has a conflict-of-interest.
The rest of the Senate GOP has simply stayed silent. ThinkProgress has reached out to all Republican senators who have not commented on the indictments or how they would react should Trump fire Mueller. None of them responded as of Wednesday afternoon.
Here are all the responses from Senate Republicans who have commented regarding Monday’s indictments and the potential of Mueller’s firing. This article will be updated should other Senators comment.
The ones who are supportive of Mueller and his investigation
This group of 20 Republican Senators has expressed support for Mueller, indicating with varying levels of ferocity that they would take action should Trump try to fire the special counsel. In August, legislation was introduced in the Senate that would protect Mueller from being fired by Trump, and although it has not gained steam, this is the group that would be most likely to support it if it appeared Mueller’s job was in danger.
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL)
“My basic philosophy is, once you have an independent counsel, you ought to give him a chance to follow the facts,” Shelby, the chairman of the subcommittee that handles the Justice Department’s funding, told The Washington Post. “If somebody’s doing a job, you don’t want to cut it off.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
In a joint interview with CNN in August, Collins said Trump “can’t set red lines for Mueller,” and Murkowski responded, “Well said.” The Alaska senator has also expressed her support for Mueller’s appointment on Twitter.
Pleased that Deputy AG has appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as Special Counsel to lead the Russia investigation. pic.twitter.com/stqpdjclsi
— Sen. Lisa Murkowski (@lisamurkowski) May 18, 2017
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)
In June, McCain said firing Mueller would be “explosive,” a stance he reiterated earlier this week. “I would oppose,” he said, asked about Trump potentially firing Mueller. “And so would the American people.”
Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
“[Mueller’s] been appointed for a purpose, let him carry that purpose out, and let the evidence take us where it may,” Isakson told The Huffington Post Tuesday.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
“As always, it’s important to let our legal system run its course. While we don’t have any more information regarding the current status of the special counsel’s investigation other than what has already been made public, it’s good to see the Justice Department taking seriously its responsibility to enforce the Foreign Agents Registration Act,” Grassley said in a statement earlier this week. “The Judiciary Committee is continuing its work to ensure that the Justice Department and FBI are functioning free from inappropriate influence, consistent with our constitutional oversight responsibility.”
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA)
“It’s important that we let the Special Counsel and bipartisan congressional investigations continue in earnest,” Ernst said in a statement Monday.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
“The special counsel has his job to do,” McConnell said earlier this week in his first public statement since the indictments. The job we have here in the Senate is the investigation being carried out by the intelligence committee.”
Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA)
Kennedy told reporters that “uranium probes” deserve more attention, but added, “I don’t want to deny the Justice Department or special counsel resources they need… Now I don’t want to see them just go hog wild and waste money either. But I don’t want to try to do anything to hurt their effort.”
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)
In August, Collins told CNN, Trump “can’t set red lines for Bob Mueller.” On Tuesday, she noted that she thinks such a thing is unlikely, telling The Washington Post, “The idea that Bob Mueller is going to have the scope of his inquiry constrained or be otherwise restricted, is really out there… I think that’s extremely unlikely.”
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE)
Sasse re-upped a tweet from May calling Mueller an “honorable man and a true public servant,” adding, “Still true.”
Still true. https://t.co/XvCyAiASM3
— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) October 31, 2017
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC)
Tillis is spearheading a bill that would prevent Trump from firing Mueller, and he told Politico earlier this week that he’s committed to getting the bill passed. “I want to make it clear that this is something I’m looking to get back into the purview of the Senate,” he said. “This isn’t just about this special counsel. It’s for all other future special counsels.”
Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH)
Portman told local media over the weekend that he thinks Trump is being “too defensive” about the Russia probe.
Sen. James Lankford (R-OK)
“He’s doing the job he’s been asked by the American people to do. He should stay at it and finish it,” Lankford told The Huffington Post Tuesday.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Firing Mueller “would be a disaster. … There’s no reason to fire Mueller. What’s he done to be fired?” Graham said in June. On Monday, Graham doubled down, telling Fox News there “will be holy hell to pay” if Trump fires the special counsel.
Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC)
“The American people deserve the truth, wherever it lies,” Scott said in a statement Monday night. “While the charges against Mr. Manafort pre-date the campaign, it is important individuals under investigation continue to cooperate with Mr. Mueller.” (It’s worth noting that Manafort’s charges do not exclusively pre-date the campaign.)
Sen. John Thune (R-SD)
Mueller “is a man of integrity … and he needs to be able to do his work,” Thune said on MSNBC in June. “And I think it’s better for all of us if that work continues. It’s – obviously he is going to get to the bottom and he is going to find the facts, and I think that’s his role. And I think we ought to let him continue to do that and I assume at some point there will be an end to all this. He’ll have done his investigation and there will be whatever findings there are.”
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD)
“No. He should not be [fired],” Rounds said on NPR over the summer. “Straightforward. This is a special counsel. He has a job to do. Let him do his job.”
Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN)
“There would be an uprising at the Capitol like never seen before if any kind of interference looked like it was taking place,” Corker told the Post Tuesday. “Regardless of which side of the aisle. That’s just beyond the pale.”
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
In the wake of the indictments, Hatch said Mueller needs “time and support,” but added to reporters, “Frankly, I’m having a rough time seeing why in the world they are indicting him… I think it’s overreach.”
— Senator Hatch Office (@senorrinhatch) October 30, 2017
Hatch also told Politico he is confident Trump won’t fire Mueller. “He’s not gonna be fired by the president,” Hatch said. “I know him, he knows that’d be a stupid move, as far as I’m concerned.”
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)
“I fully support Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s continuing investigation and I’ll do everything I can to make sure that the system of checks and balances, the system of separation of powers in the federal government, is upheld,” Lee told The Salt Lake Tribune through a spokesperson.
The ones who just want you to let them focus on tax reform
This group of seven senators has ducked questions about Mueller and the indictments. Several of them redirected conversation with reporters to tax reform, the Senate’s self-professed priority right now. It’s uncertain what, if anything, this group would do if Trump tried to fire Mueller.
Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK)
Sullivan told Talking Points Memo he hasn’t read proposed legislation that would protect Mueller should Trump try to fire the special counsel. “You guys are in some ways a lot more focused on this than the work,” he said. “And when I go home and do town halls the number of questions I get on that is low, sometimes zero.”
Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID)
A statement from Crapo’s office said Mueller and the congressional committees investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election must conclude their investigations into Russia’s actions “appropriately,” adding, “Until the investigation has been completed in its entirety, it would be premature for him to speculate on the matter further.”
Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID)
A spokesperson for Risch told The Spokesman-Review, “As far as the individuals who have recently been the subject of Justice Department charges, those matters will be handled by the Justice Department and federal courts through the regular judicial process.”
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS)
“I can’t think of why it should [overshadow tax week],” Wicker told CNN. Wicker added to the Post, “I probably know less than you,” declaring that he was “way behind on that issue.”
Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC)
“The special counsel has found a reason on criminal violations to indict two individuals and I will leave that up to the special counsel to make that determination,” Burr, who is leading the Senate investigation into Trump campaign collusion, told CNN. “It doesn’t change anything with our investigation. Two individuals that we’ve gotten documents from. We have, we had interest in them, but clearly the criminal charges put them in the Special Counsel’s purview.”
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)
“That’s [Mueller’s] wheelhouse, not ours,” Cornyn, the majority whip, told the Post. Cornyn also told CBS, “That really isn’t our job… I don’t see how the indictment changes the president’s ability to do his job. There is a process for this to go forward. And I trust that it will happen.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)
Cruz told local media this week that the charges are “undoubtedly serious” but that he wants to “see if the facts back up the charges.”
The ones who are leaving the door open
This group of five senators softly defended Trump in the wake of Mueller’s first indictments Monday. The group echoed Trump arguments about Manafort and the Russia investigation. It’s this group that would be mostly likely to support Trump if he tried to fire Mueller.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)
Asked about the indictments earlier this week, Rubio echoed Trump, telling TMZ (incorrectly) that all of Manafort’s alleged crimes occurred before the campaign. In June, Rubio told CNN Trump “will not fire” Mueller.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
“This has to do with them paying their taxes. I can’t really make an argument that they shouldn’t have paid their taxes,” Paul told local media. But, he added, “If a special prosecutor came into our lives, and was able to turn every page of everything we done over the last decade or two, is there a chance that people who aren’t bad people be caught up in something like that? Yeah, I’ve seen it happen a lot.”
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO)
Blunt expressed support for Mueller but was careful to leave the door open, noting that his support is not unconditional. “I might reach that conclusion at some point [that Mueller should resign],” Blunt told The Huffington Post, “but based on the information I have right now I have no reason to believe he can’t do his job as special counsel.”
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK)
“So far I haven’t seen that our president was a part of it or was knowledgeable about it,” Inhofe told Vox. “We don’t know what’s going to come. Apparently there are going to be more indictments. We will wait and see until more things are exposed. In the meantime, don’t forget we still have all the Hillary activity.”
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI)
“Day to day developments don’t change the senator’s view that a special counsel was appointed far too early in this process,” a spokesperson for Johnson said. “Nor do they affect his overall concern that this investigation cannot tolerate even the appearance of a conflict of interest. Mr. Mueller is simply too close to James Comey and the FBI as questions continue to surface about their roles in matters the special counsel may be investigating.”
The ones who’ve said nothing at all
This group of 17 senators has not commented on the potential of Trump firing Mueller nor have they commented on Monday’s indictments. ThinkProgress has reached out to all of their offices for comment. It’s unclear how they would react if Trump moved to fire Mueller, though this story will be updated if any of the legislators clarifies their stance.
Sens. Luther Strange (R-AL), John Boozman (R-AK), Tom Cotton (R-AK), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Todd Young (R-IN), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Steve Daines (R-MT), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Dean Heller (R-NV), John Hoeven (R-ND), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV), Mike Enzi (R-WY), and John Barrasso (R-WY).