Trump firing Mueller would ‘create a constitutional crisis,’ Sen. Warner says
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Trump firing Mueller would ‘create a constitutional crisis,’ Sen. Warner says

September 18, 2019


JUDY WOODRUFF: In the latest twist in the
Russia investigation, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani will be joining President
Trump’s legal defense team. The move comes amid bipartisan calls in the
Senate to pass a bill to protect special counsel Robert Mueller. A short time ago, I spoke with the vice chairman
of the Intelligence Committee, Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia. And I began by asking about the addition of
Giuliani. SEN. MARK WARNER (D), Virginia: Well, the president’s
legal team seems to expand and contract on almost a weekly basis. I had a lot of respect for Mr. Giuliani when
he was a prosecutor and was mayor of New York. I didn’t know he had been actively practicing
law. I thought he had been consultant the last
decade-plus. But Mr. Trump has an ability to hire whoever
he wants. At the end of the day, I hope this will also
mean that Mr. Trump is going to go ahead and allow the Mueller investigation to continue
unimpeded, because, at the end of the day, Americans deserve the answer from his investigation
and, frankly, from our Senate Intelligence investigation as well. JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of the Mueller
investigation, you and other bipartisan senators are supporting legislation to protect Robert
Mueller’s job. Why? SEN. MARK WARNER: Well, Judy, over the last year,
we have seen this president turn his ire on anybody that crosses him. We have seen him attack Comey. We have seen him attack Mueller. His own original attorney general, Mr. Sessions,
had to recuse himself because he was involved with some of these Russian activities. And we set up this special prosecutor to be
independent and overseen by somebody, a long-term career individual, actually a Republican,
Rod Rosenstein. And we have got this system set up. The president says there’s nothing, yet he
continues to, at least on press reports, think about firing Mueller, may have already even
tried to pull the trigger a couple of times. And on top of that, Judy, you have the president
going off and making these ad hominem attacks against the integrity of everybody at the
FBI, everybody at the Justice Department. That gets us into very scary times, in my
mind, when people start choosing which laws they want to follow. So, my Republican colleagues have said, if
Mr. Mueller was fired, that would be the end of the Trump presidency. I think we ought to go ahead and reinforce
that by passing this legislation. JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I’m sure you know, Senator,
when that law came before a committee last fall in Congress, scholars were divided over
whether it’s constitutional for the Congress to do something like that. You have had a number of Republicans who are
saying right now it’s not necessary because the president himself is saying he doesn’t
plan to fire Robert Mueller. SEN. MARK WARNER: Well, if there is one thing we
have found from this president is that he’s unpredictable, and saying one thing on one
day doesn’t mean it will be his position the next day. And over the last number of months, he’s clearly
tweeted against Mr. Mueller’s investigation a variety of times. His allies have gone out and attacked the
Justice Department and attacked Mr. Mueller. So I would rather be safe than sorry. The fact is, now, while there would be in
this legislation the ability to, even if Mr. Mueller was fired, to have him take it to
court for 10 days, let’s just preclude all this and put something on the books that will
protect this individual and this investigation. JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Senator, the majority
leader in the Senate, who controls I guess what comes to the floor, Mitch McConnell,
is saying he doesn’t plan to bring this to the floor. SEN. MARK WARNER: Well, I’m disappointed by that. I’m disappointed, in a time when there appears
to be broad bipartisan support, when I know the Judiciary Committee was going to mark
up this legislation, I would hope that the majority leader would reconsider that if it
comes out with a big majority out of the Judiciary Committee. Again, we’re in unprecedented times. In my lifetime — I’m old enough. I was in college here in Washington during
the Watergate era. Even during the Watergate era, I don’t remember
a president so broadly attacking the whole FBI, the whole Justice Department in these
unprecedented ways, reinforced by allies, reinforced by certain news networks, where
I think people are starting to question whether rule of law is going to stand at this point
in time. That’s why I think this investigation, regardless
of where it ends up, is so important to be protected. JUDY WOODRUFF: And, in fact, the “NewsHour,”
in collaboration with NPR the Marist College, has done a poll that is coming out just now
saying that the public’s confident in the FBI is starting to slip. But what I want to ask you, though, is about
the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein. The president — there has also been speculation
about whether his job is safe. SEN. MARK WARNER: Right. JUDY WOODRUFF: Republican congressmen have
gone to see him in recent days to say he may impeachment proceedings if he doesn’t turn
over documents related to the origin of the Mueller investigation. Is he safe in his job? SEN. MARK WARNER: Well, Judy, I believe that firing
Mueller or Rosenstein would create a constitutional crisis. I think history would then judge all of us. I believe that some of the president’s allies
are frankly trying to simply intimidate Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, a career professional,
politically a Republican, just as Mr. Mueller is. And this is part of this, what appears to
me at least, as somebody who follows this very closely a campaign, wherever it’s orchestrated,
to undermine Rosenstein, undermine Mueller, undermine the FBI. And that puts us in uncharted territories. JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally, a question or two
about Mike Pompeo, the president’s choice to be the next secretary of state. You supported him to be CIA director. You voted for him. You have not said whether you will vote for
him in this new position. But where does that stand right now? Does it look like he will be confirmed? SEN. MARK WARNER: Well, Judy, I think that’s still
being actively discussed. But I under feel no immediate pressure to
rush to a decision. At this moment in time, choosing the next
secretary of state — and acknowledging almost every secretary of state of a president has
been approved — is a really weighty decision. JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Mark Warner of Virginia,
the vice chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, thank you very much. SEN. MARK WARNER: Thank you, Judy.

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