The rats are jumping ship when it comes to protecting Trump from the Russiagate investigation. North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis made an appearance on this weekend's Fox News Sunday, and was asked about legislation he sponsored along with Sen. Chris Coons to protect special counsel Robert Mueller from being improperly fired by Donald Trump.
Senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway went after Mueller's investigation on ABC's This Week when asked how Trump feels about the bill introduced by Tillis and Coons:
Senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway on Sunday said President Donald Trump has not discussed firing special counsel Robert Mueller, and claimed proposals to shield Mueller from Trump’s influence are based on “hypotheticals.”
Asked on ABC News’ “This Week” how Trump feels about a bill Sens. Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Chris Coons introduced to shield special counsels from political influence, Conway said, “Why are we engaging in hypotheticals? The entire Russia investigation is a hypothetical.”
She said Trump “has not even discussed” firing Mueller, who is leading the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“The President is not discussing firing Bob Mueller,” Conway said. “We are complying and cooperating with — he has not discussed firing Bob Mueller.”
Trump has repeatedly called the investigation a "witch hunt" and it was widely speculated that he wanted Attorney Jeff Sessions to step down so he could find someone who would take his place and fire the special counsel.
Tillis shot down Trump and Conway's talking points when Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace asked him about the bill and why he co-sponsored it:
WALLACE: Your cosponsor, Democratic Senator Chris Coons, said that the reason that this bill was introduced, this is up on the screen, to expressly design to restrain the president’s power to act in an abrupt and inappropriate way.
Now, you say you’ve been thinking about this for years. But there seems to be some belief, and there certainly is backed up by what Senator Coons said, concern about this president and his reaction, very negative reaction, to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
TILLIS: Well, I think that’s right. That’s why we put the effective date back to the date of the hire of the current special counsel.
But this is an opportunity. Often times when you have the other party in the White House, people want these kinds of things but they don’t have the majority support to do it. This is an opportunity to put something on the books that applies to this current situation, but it will be in effect going forward.
This is very important. It’s an important part of what we need to do to reestablish the public trust in the Department of Justice. That’s why I’m taking the opportunity to do it now because I know the very people on my side of the aisle who have some concerns with it would be pounding the table for this if we were talking about a President Hillary Clinton and similar circumstances and an investigation that may or may not involve her.
WALLACE: But is some of this directed at President Trump?
TILLIS: Well, there’s no question that it is, because clearly, the date that we’ve made the bill retroactive to. But this is about the Department of Justice. This is about my confidence in the attorney general and my confidence in the Department of Justice to move forward in an appropriate manner.
We just want to have -- we don’t want to restrict administration’s authority or the Department of Justice from removing a counsel, we just want to make sure to the American people they can be convinced it was done for the right reasons.
WALLACE: Well, let’s talk about confidence or lack of confidence in the Justice Department and this investigation. President Trump has in over recent months, as you know, called the Russian investigation a hoax and a witch hunt.
Here’s what he said this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The Russian story is a total fabrication. It’s just an excuse for the greatest loss in the history of American politics. That’s all it is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Senator, do you think the Russian story is a total fabrication and a hoax?
TILLIS: I don’t know. I think what we -- what we have is an investigation that if we allow it to lead to its conclusion, we get a definitive answer to that question. I don’t believe that the investigation is a witch hunt, for example. I think that this is just a way to put this behind us because, Chris, there’s so many other things we want to get to, health care, tax reform, infrastructure. I’m trying to do everything I can to remove these distractions so that I can continue to support the president’s agenda.
WALLACE: What do you make of the big news this week that the special counsel is taking his investigation to a grand jury?
TILLIS: I think that that’s just a part of the process. I don’t read anything into it. Grand juries are convened all over this country for good reasons.
I don’t have a concern -- and I’m not -- I’m not an attorney. I’m not a lawyer. I’m not going to get into the procedures.
If it gets us to an expedient conclusion, I’m for anything that does that. I happen to think it will probably turn out just fine. I want to get away from the distractions and get to our agenda.