As reported by Politico
Republican Sen. John Thune says special counsel Robert Mueller should “start winding this down.” Speaker Paul Ryan says “we want to see this thing come to its conclusion.” And House Majority Whip Steve Scalise says he fears Mueller’s probe is “becoming a witch hunt.”
A growing number of Republicans in senior leadership positions, who all profess that Mueller should have no artificial deadline for his Russia influence probe, have also begun to sprinkle in another suggestion: It’s time to wrap it up.
The message is a nod to the gravitational pull of President Donald Trump and his most vocal allies in Congress, a band of hardcore Mueller critics who have made moves to choke off his funding and encourage him to wrap up immediately. Though most senior GOP lawmakers say Mueller should let the facts dictate his probe, their willingness to embrace the hurry-up language is a sign of increasing pressure and division among Republicans about the party’s posture toward the investigation as it enters a perilous phase for Trump and his allies.
“Wrap it up” has become the message of choice for lawmakers trying to straddle the line. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) sent the message shortly after Thune spoke to Fox News, telling CNN that “I’d like to see them wrap it up.” And the GOP’s Missouri Senate nominee, Josh Hawley, followed suit last week in urging Mueller to “wrap it up and present his evidence.”
That message has caught on as Trump’s party searches for a way to talk about Mueller’s mandate to investigate Russian connections within the president’s inner circle — without alienating the president. As the midterm elections approach, it’s also a message that could resonate with a GOP base increasingly hostile to Mueller’s continued investigation, a sentiment that Trump has stoked in recent weeks.
The “wrap it up” caucus swelled noticeably after Vice President Mike Pence last month urged the special counsel to hurry up.
“In the interests of the country, I think it’s time to wrap it up,” Pence told NBC on May 10.
The sentiment has grown steadily since Mueller crossed the one-year mark of his investigation on May 17.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), an original sponsor of legislation designed to protect Mueller’s job, said recently that “the sooner the better” when it comes to his investigation ending.
“The challenge you always have to put an arbitrary deadline on — let’s say something major, a lead or some other investigation strain comes up next week,” Tillis said in a recent interview. ”But I think, on the whole, it’s reasonable to expect with the length of time that’s passed, they should wrap it up.”
As much as Trump’s party wants to see the cloud of the Russia probe lift, however, not every Republican is prepared to tell the special counsel to hurry it up while fresh indictments continue to emerge.
“The president keeps saying it ought to end. I’d just say that since he’s winning, let it play out,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said in a recent interview, adding that “you can’t” impose a given timeline on Mueller.
“I’ve done enough investigation[s] in 37 years that you’ve got to follow the facts where they take you,” said Grassley, who steered the Tillis-backed legislation through his committee in April.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said the Mueller protection bill won’t reach the floor and that the special counsel isn’t in danger of being axed by the president. But McConnell, notably, hasn’t suggested that the investigation wind down and has reiterated his support for Mueller even after getting a briefing on Trump’s unfounded claim that the FBI had installed a spy in his 2016 campaign.
In the House, by contrast, top Republicans are amping up demands that Mueller finish his probe.
“Let them walk through their investigation. But I think, if there is no collusion, it’s time to wind this down,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who’s looking to succeed Ryan next year, told CNN last week.
Though it’s unclear what evidence Mueller has gathered or has been provided by cooperating witnesses, McCarthy declared that there was “no collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia and complained that the probe had lasted more than a year. During a recent Fox News appearance, Scalise also indicated he’d like the Mueller probe to be wrapped up quickly.
For his part, Ryan has emphasized that Mueller should be “free to do his job.” But on the one-year anniversary of Mueller’s probe last month, Ryan too said he was hopeful that the probe would be “wrapped up” in the near future.
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