Democrats, pinning hopes on Mueller, push back at Pence on ending probe

Democrats convinced that special counsel Robert Mueller is on the path to taking down President Trump reacted with shock and indignation to Vice President Mike Pence’s call Thursday for the investigation to be wrapped up quickly.

As Mueller’s investigation continues to turn up evidence into ties between the Russian government and Trump’s presidential campaign, as well as possible obstruction of justice stemming from the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, Democrats have increasingly cheered it on, while Republicans have grown bolder in calling for its end.

In an interview Thursday with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Pence joined the growing chorus of those in his party.

“In the interest of the country, I think it’s time to wrap it up,” Pence said. “I would very respectfully encourage the special counsel and his team to bring their work to completion.”

Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., summed up the Democratic response to that idea.

“Extremely irresponsible, for somebody who should know better, to try and influence the special counsel’s campaign,” Swalwell told Mitchell. “They’re still counting Russians. Under every rock you pick up, out of every tree that you shake, a Russian falls out. So they’re still counting Russians. There’s also just a failure to come clean. You’ve seen guilty pleas now from Mike Flynn, from George Papadopoulos, from Rick Gates. So when you lie, the investigation takes longer, and then the president is still screwing around with whether or not he’ll sit down in the special counsel’s witness chair. He’s been provided the questions. He could move this thing along a lot faster if he’d just sit down and cooperate.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, had even harsher words for Pence.

“VP Pence has now brought his sycophancy to a whole new level,” Schiff tweeted. “With questions concerning which senior transition officials were aware of Flynn’s secret talks w/ Russian Ambassador still unanswered and new revelations every day, investigation must continue without his interference.”

Of course, no one is more hostile to Mueller’s investigation than Trump himself, who regularly posits  justifications for shuttering it, as he did earlier this week.

President Trump signals to the press that he will come over to talk as he leaves the White House for Dallas to address the National Rifle Association on May 4. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

There’s almost no chance that Mueller will wrap up his investigation before the midterm elections, which puts the ball in Trump’s court, and that has many Democrats worried that he’ll move to quash the probe.

“I think it would be a constitutional crisis, but let’s hope that he does not. The three things that could happen: The president could let the investigation proceed, which Republicans in the Senate, at least, are encouraging him to do,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a press conference on April 12. “We haven’t seen too much of that in the House. Secondly, he could fire Mueller or, third, [Deputy Attorney General Rod] Rosenstein. I think they are synonymous. They are the same thing. The firing of Rosenstein should be viewed by the public as the curtailing of the investigation, effectively firing Mueller from doing the job that he’s there to do. Since Christmas we have been prepared for the president taking such an action, hoping that he would not, but prepared if he did.”

In an impassioned speech on the Senate floor following the April 9 raid on Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s office and residence, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer was more blunt: “Interfering with the investigation would be a disgrace.”

Constitutional questions aside, a growing number of Republicans now believe that Mueller’s investigation is unfair. Still, 76 percent of Americans in a CBS News poll released this week believe Trump should cooperate if he’s asked to be interviewed.

For Democrats, and Republicans who oppose Trump, the waiting game is the hardest part. The daily anticipation for the next news in the investigation is similar to children staying up late on Christmas Eve in the hope of glimpsing Santa Claus, and is epitomized by the millions of messages posted to Twitter that contain the words “Mueller, please hurry.”

For those convinced of the president’s corruption, the wholesale repudiation of the Trump White House is considered only a matter of time.

“I believe if the facts are unveiled, whether it is in the next six months before the November election or after, that Republicans are going to be hard-pressed to stand with this president and to deny that he has colluded with Russia and that he’s obstructed justice,” Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said in an interview with MSNBC’s Joy Reid. “I think, even as they see it now, some of them are whispering. They are embarrassed, they’re worried, they’re scared that this president is going to take them down eventually.”

 

For now, both parties are operating on faith: on the part of Democrats, that the investigation will bring Trump down, and among Republicans, that it will prove to be, as Trump says, a pointless witch hunt. And the longer it goes, the more those positions seem to harden.

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(Cover photo credit: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)