Sen. Jeff Flake, one of President Trump’s most prominent Senate critics, told The Washington Post in an interview Tuesday that he would support impeachment proceedings against Trump if the president ends special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election “without cause.”
“We’re begging him: ‘Don’t go down this road. Don’t create a constitutional crisis. Don’t force the Congress to take the only remedy that Congress can take,’ ” said Flake (R-Ariz.). “To remind the president of that is the best way to keep him from going down that road. To fire Mueller without cause, I don’t know if there is any other remedy left to the legislative branch.”
Flake compared any possible effort by Trump in the coming weeks to end the Mueller probe to President Richard Nixon’s infamous 1973 firing of the special prosecutor during the Watergate scandal.
“If [Trump] fires [Mueller] without cause, how different is that from what Nixon did with the ‘Saturday Night Massacre’?” Flake asked. “He left before impeachment came, but that was the remedy then, and that would be the remedy now.”
Flake — who recently traveled to New Hampshire and is considered a potential Trump challenger in the race for the 2020 Republican presidential nomination — said he was speaking up Tuesday about the prospect of impeachment because Republican warnings have been unsuccessful in holding back Trump’s criticism of Mueller’s probe. Flake expressed alarm over how the president’s attacks on the investigation have seemed to escalate over the past week as the president faces mounting legal and political challenges.
Flake also credited Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) for taking the lead in talking about the possibility of impeachment proceedings — a topic most Republicans are eager to avoid.
Earlier Tuesday, Graham told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that firing Mueller, “if he did it without cause,” would “probably” be an impeachable offense.
Flake said in the interview: “Nobody wants to talk about it. I don’t want to talk about it. As soon as you mention the i-word, that’s all people want to talk about.”
But Flake said Republicans must confront the fragility of the Mueller investigation as it withstands Trump’s assaults.
“The president needs to be reminded that while there is nothing the House and the Senate can do constitutionally to prevent the president from moving forward, our remedy is on the other side,” Flake said. “And the firing of a special prosecutor without cause will, as Lindsey Graham said, prompt that remedy.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), meanwhile, told reporters Tuesday that he agrees with “the president’s lawyers that Bob Mueller ought to be allowed to finish his job” and called the former FBI director an “excellent appointment.”
“I think he will go wherever the facts lead him, and I think he will have great credibility with the American people when he reaches the conclusion of his investigation,” McConnell said. “So I have a lot of confidence in him.”