GOP Group Urges Support For Mueller Investigation
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
There is a push in Congress for legislation that would protect special counsel Robert Mueller's job. It would prevent President Trump from firing him. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell does not think there's any reason to bring that bill up for a vote. This is McConnell on Fox News this week.
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MITCH MCCONNELL: I don't think he should fire Mueller, and I don't think he's going to. So this is a piece of legislation that's not necessary.
GREENE: Now, that failed to comfort some Senate Republicans, who are pressing ahead with legislation. And they have the support outside Capitol Hill. A group named Republicans for the Rule of Law is running ads urging support for Mueller.
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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: As the head of the FBI under George W. Bush, Mueller has been trusted by Republicans to put America first. Call your representative and tell them to protect the Mueller investigation.
GREENE: We have Sarah Longwell with us in the studio this morning. She's chair of the Log Cabin Republicans, also one of the co-founders of Republicans for the Rule of Law, the group running those ads. Welcome to the studios.
SARAH LONGWELL: Thank you for having me.
GREENE: So I just want to make clear, I mean, your organization has rule of law in its title. Isn't there a legal way for the president to fire Mueller, as we've heard from legal experts and from the White House if he were to, you know, choose a different deputy attorney general and then instruct that person that he wants a firing to happen? Is that within his legal rights, even if it's something a lot of people would oppose?
LONGWELL: It may be. He certainly thinks it is. But from our standpoint, we believe as Republicans - I mean, if you just look back at the attempts to - when we were impeaching Clinton, President Clinton, Republicans talked about the rule of law. They held up the Constitution. And we want to be consistent right now as Republicans, saying that firing him would present a constitutional crisis. It would imperil his presidency, it would imperil Republicans in general and it would hurt the country.
GREENE: A lot to talk about there. OK, so even if it is technically within his legal rights, you're saying that there's a real danger, first of all, in terms of what message this would send for Republicans. Talk about that, talk about the danger for the party.
LONGWELL: Well, you know, it's already looking tough for Republicans coming up in November in 2018. This would turn sort of a standard Democratic pickup of a number of seats into a massive wave, which would hand the gavel over to Democrats in the - hand the gavel over to Nancy Pelosi or the Democrats. And Republicans should be nervous. I mean, if the rule of law isn't enough, then political self-preservation should be. We've seen this happen before with Richard Nixon.
The latest ad that we ran is a callback to the Nixon era when, you know, he did fire special counsel Cox. And as a result, you know, it ended his presidency.
GREENE: And you think it could be that serious here? I mean, we talk about that the president's political base seems pretty solid. No matter what happens during the course of his presidency so far, they stick with him. I mean, what voters are you talking about and why do you think there would be such a dramatic turnaround in the polls?
LONGWELL: Well, it looks like it would be probably highly educated suburban voters who would walk away from him over something like this. Those are the people that we see already being nervous. In some of these special elections, those are the people that are walking away from him. And so something like this would, you know, it would certainly embolden Democrats. And it would, I think, concern Republicans about the party and their ability to rule. And it would create, like I said, a real constitutional crisis.
GREENE: Sarah Longwell, if a bill protecting Robert Mueller made it to the floor, the prospects for actually becoming law are not very good. I mean, it's not likely that President Trump would sign it. And some even suggest it could backfire - in a way, daring President Trump to fire Mueller. So what would this bill actually achieve?
LONGWELL: Yeah, the bill is very unlikely that it's going to go anywhere. It will possibly come out of the Judiciary Committee. In fact, it's likely that it will come out of the Judiciary Committee. But Mitch McConnell has said he's not going to bring it to the floor for a vote. But it would give Republicans an opportunity to stand up. It's the reason we founded the organization. I mean, there's an active attempt on the part of the White House to undermine the special counsel's investigation.
And we think that it's very important that Republicans stand up in this moment to be counted, speak with one voice unequivocally and say that we need to protect the special counsel's investigation, that it should continue unimpeded, go on without political interference. And that's what we're here to talk about. You know, we are lifelong Republicans ever since we launched. Republicans from all over the country have been sending in donations, sending in letters.
We've had lawyers from the Bush administrations, from the Reagan administrations coming to us and saying, I want to be part of this. I want to stand up for the rule of law. I want to be counted in this moment so that people know that Republicans care about the rule of law.
GREENE: So these are largely political ads. This is you caring about your party, being very worried about what something like this would do to the party in an election year.
LONGWELL: Well, look, it is about the rule of law. But if the rule of law's not enough for some Republicans, then it should be about political self-preservation and the preservation of the future of the party.
GREENE: Sarah Longwell is co-founder of Republicans for the Rule of Law joining us in the studio this morning. Thanks so much.
LONGWELL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.