Another conservative House lawmaker is calling for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to resign, arguing that he has a conflict of interest that should disqualify him from running the Justice Department’s probe of potential connections between President Trump’s surrogates and the Kremlin.
Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), a staunch conservative and one of the more senior members of the House Judiciary Committee, argued that Mueller and former FBI director James B. Comey have “a close friendship” and that Mueller “appears to be a partisan arbiter of justice.”
Franks also criticized Mueller for bringing individuals to his team who donated to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, which he called “obviously deliberate partisan hirings” that “do not help convey impartiality.”
“Until Mueller resigns, he will be in clear violation of the law,” Franks concluded.
The focus on Mueller comes as his probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, including allegations of potential collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, accelerates. It also comes as some of Trump’s top surrogates — including his son, son-in-law and former campaign manager — are speaking to congressional committees behind closed doors about their participation in a June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer in Trump Tower.
Franks is not the first member of Congress to call on Mueller to remove himself from the Russia probe — his fellow Arizona delegation member, freshman Republican Andy Biggs, called on Mueller to recuse himself in June. Biggs cited similar arguments, though many — such as the assertion that Mueller and Comey, who served as FBI director and deputy attorney general during George W. Bush’s administration, were especially “close” — have been discredited.
Their arguments are, however, largely an echo of complaints Trump himself has made about Mueller as he also downplays the seriousness or merit of the Russia probe.
Both Arizona lawmakers calling for Mueller to step aside are members of the House Judiciary Committee, where Republicans just days ago called on Justice Department leaders to appoint a second special counsel “to investigate unaddressed matters,” arguing that Mueller’s purview was too “narrow in scope” to focus on episodes of election meddling unrelated to Trump.
Those episodes deserving special attention, in their assessment, include probing former attorney general Loretta Lynch’s “directive” to Comey “to mislead the American people on the nature” of the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s emails; investigating “the FBI’s reliance on ‘Fusion GPS,’ ” a firm behind a dossier of salacious but unverified details about Trump’s time in Russia; connections between the Clinton team and any foreign entities; and “selected leaks of classified information” — a favorite focal point for Trump supporters over the past several months.
The House Judiciary Committee has not been actively pursuing an investigation into alleged links between the Trump campaign and Russian surrogates as its counterpart committee in the Senate, or the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, have done.