WASHINGTON – Republicans lawmakers are firing back against the unsubstantiated claims that the Trump administration colluded with Russia to rig the 2016 presidential election and are demanding the resignation of Robert Mueller, appointed as a special counsel to investigate.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., argued on the House floor Thursday that Mueller has “indisputable conflicts of interests” that undermine his ability to objectively lead the Justice Department investigation into claims the Trump campaign collaborated with Russians.
“We are at risk of a coup d’état in this country if we allow an unaccountable person with no oversight to undermine the duly elected president of the United States,” Gaetz said in an impassioned speech. “I would offer that is precisely what is happening right now with the indisputable conflicts of interest that are present with Mr. Mueller and others at the Department of Justice.”
Gaetz urged the House to pass a resolution he co-sponsored with Reps. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, and Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., and introduced last week.
The resolution claims Mueller’s impartiality is compromised in the investigation because he was the FBI chief when the Obama administration approved the Uranium One deal, allowing a Russian government-linked company to purchase 20 percent of the U.S. uranium.
The deal was approved by several federal agencies, including the State Department, which was then led by Hillary Clinton. The State Department approved the deal, GOP lawmakers contend, because the Russian company made substantial donations to the Clinton Foundation.
The 2010 deal was made around the same time Bill Clinton received substantial speaking fees in Russia.
Gaetz also demanded a special prosecutor be appointed to investigate the Clinton Foundation, the Uranium One Deal and Fusion GPS, the firm Clinton and the Democratic National Committee funded to manufacture a dossier containing unsubstantiated claims against Trump.
Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., argued in August that Mueller should quit in light of his close ties to James Comey, his successor FBI director in 2013 who was fired by President Trump in May 2017 before he leaked classified information to the New York Times.
Gaetz said the Russia probe is based on nothing more than the fabricated dossier supplied by Trump’s political opposition.
“I join my colleague, the gentleman from Arizona [Rep. Franks], in calling for Mr. Mueller’s resignation or his firing,” he said. “We absolutely have to see the Department of Justice appoint a special counsel to look into the Clinton Foundation, the Uranium One deal, and the Fusion GPS dossier …”
The Florida Republican’s speech and resolution follow the first indictments handed down in Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The Trump administration assured last month that the White House has “no intention” to fire Mueller from leading the ongoing investigation, just hours after former Trump campaign officials Paul Manafort and Richard Gates were indicted on 12 charges including money laundering and failure to disclose their work as foreign agents. The charges stem from activities before they were with the Trump campaign.
Yet, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said hours after the indictments Mueller’s investigation is a political witch hunt.
“There is clear evidence of the Clinton campaign colluding with Russian intelligence to spread disinformation and smear the president to influence the election,” Huckabee Sanders said.
Gaetz reportedly tried to persuade Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Sept. 28 to terminate Mueller and appoint another special counsel to look into the uranium deal, but Sessions, who recused himself from investigating Uranium One and the Clinton email scandal, declined.
“When I asked the attorney general, he said that any issues regarding Uranium One fell under his recusal,” Gaetz said.
Rod Rosenstein, a deputy attorney general, also refused to commit to making a decision on his request, Gaetz explained.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is also a proponent of keeping Mueller on as special counsel.
“We need to let these career professionals do their jobs, see it through,” Ryan said during an interview with Fox News Sunday. “So, no, I don’t think he should be stepping down, and I don’t think he should be fired. And the president has made it clear, he’s not going to do that.”