As the probe into possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election draws ever closer to Trump’s inner circle, Democratic lawmakers are becoming increasingly concerned that Republicans are laying plans to quash the investigation.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a series of tweets on Friday that by rushing to give the appearance of a completed investigation and making noise about opening up a new investigation into Hillary Clinton, Republicans could effectively close the book on the House investigation. He added that Republicans had refused to file subpoenas when they were needed and scheduled “critical witness interviews” out of state next week — when representatives would be occupied with voting on the tax bill.
Schiff also called out House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) specifically for not effectively supporting the investigation. “The responsibility to conduct a thorough investigation, or to prevent one, ultimately falls on Speaker Ryan,” Schiff tweeted. “I’m concerned he’s heeding the calls of Bannon and POTUS to ‘DO SOMETHING’ by closing down the Russia investigation and opening up another investigation of Hillary Clinton.”
It appears Republicans want to conduct just enough interviews to give the impression of a serious investigation.
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) December 15, 2017
The prospect of opening yet another investigation into Hillary Clinton has severely vexed some House Democrats, who see it as a distraction from their task of investigating the depths of potential Russian collusion with members of the Trump campaign. On Wednesday, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) scolded his Republican colleagues for dragging their feet on the Russia investigation while calling for another investigation into Clinton.
“With the year coming to a close, and with the leadership of the Department of Justice finally before us, what do my Republican colleagues want to discuss? Hillary Clinton’s email,” Nadler said. “A week before we adjourn for the calendar year, the majority’s highest priority is Hillary Clinton’s emails and a few related text messages.”
Schiff’s concerns are part of a growing body of evidence that Republicans are trying to build momentum behind a case that Trump should fire Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller. Right-wing media personalities and Republican lawmakers seized on reports that two of the FBI agents involved with the Russia investigation exchanged text messages criticizing Trump. (The two also reportedly criticized Sen. Bernie Sanders.) Fox News host Janet Pirro, for instance, has said that a “cleansing” is needed within the FBI. Sean Hannity meanwhile referred to Mueller’s team as “the most partisan special counsel in history.”
Republicans are also focusing on the FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe for his role in the anti-Trump texts, and there are concerns he could be forced out.
On Thursday, ThinkProgress learned that the pro-Trump super PAC, Great America Alliance, is running a new ad calling for four members of Mueller’s team to be fired, using far-right commentator (and Fox News contributor) Tomi Lahren to rail against Mueller.
“We must and will show support for President Trump,” Lahren says in a recorded message for the Great American Alliance. “We cannot win this fight without support from patriot supporters like you… Can we count on you to support President Trump’s presidency?”
Schiff said that what has him most concerned is that Republicans would be targeting Mueller. “The attacks on Mueller, DOJ and FBI this week make it clear they plan to go after Mueller’s investigation,” he tweeted. “Aggressively and soon.”
Meanwhile, in somewhat coincidental timing, former FBI director James Comey posted another veiled message on Friday, seemingly referring to the attacks on Mueller. “The citizen’s safety lies in the prosecutor… who serves the law and not factional purposes,” he said, quoting a former Nuremberg trial prosecutor.