Citizens deserve to know the full extent of Russian meddling in our democracy — and whether the president's campaign played a role. After the president's firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Congress must act quickly to safeguard Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.
President Donald Trump wasted no time in getting rid of Attorney General Jeff Sessions as soon as the midterm election was over. Now, Congress should act just as quickly to safeguard the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Trump’s move to replace Sessions with someone who thinks the probe led by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III has gone too far should worry all Americans. Citizens deserve to know the full extent of Russia’s meddling in our democracy — and whether the president’s campaign played a role.
Yet it’s not clear that Matthew Whitaker, the new acting attorney general, shares that view. Whitaker, who will now assume oversight of the special-counsel investigation, previously has said that Mueller would be crossing a “red line” if he looked into Trump’s finances. Echoing Trump, Whitaker has also warned that Mueller’s inquiry could be turning into a “witch hunt,” and suggested reining in the scope of the probe.
Now, Whitaker suddenly has the power to limit Mueller’s work or starve it of funding. He could revoke rules designed to prevent Mueller’s firing, or suppress the release of the investigation’s final report.
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Congress should not take a chance and merely hope that none of this comes to pass. While Sessions recused himself from the investigation due to his role in Trump’s 2016 campaign, Whitaker has shown no signs he will do the same.
Members of Washington’s congressional delegation, both Republican and Democrat, previously have said they wanted to see Mueller’s investigation completed. Now is the time for them to take concrete steps to make that happen. They must approve bipartisan legislation to help ensure that documents from the Mueller probe are protected and that the special counsel can finish his work.
Should members of the Trump administration attempt to interfere with Mueller’s investigation, they will likely face consequences come January, when Democrats take control of the U.S. House of Representatives. As a check on the administration, Democratic House leaders should not hesitate to subpoena documents and testimony related to the Mueller probe to help bring the truth to light.
Trump’s move to fire Sessions the day after the midterm elections, rather than before close races were decided, suggests that he knew that his decision would be unpopular.
Members of Congress, too, should recognize that the American people want to see the Mueller investigation completed.
They should quickly pass legislation that would hinder attempts to fire Mueller or otherwise curtail his important work.