Former Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) on Thursday knocked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for buckling to pressure this week and appointing a special counsel to take over control of the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Rosenstein on Wednesday appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller, giving him a broad mandate to investigate any matter he deems relevant.
“Right now, the swamp in some respects — what’s happened this week — is winning.”
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Hoekstra, who represented Michigan for nine terms and chaired the House Intelligence Committee, said on “The Laura Ingraham Show” that the development is part of a larger problem facing the White House.
“Right now, the swamp in some respects — what’s happened this week — is winning,” he said.
Hoekstra said Attorney General Jeff Sessions set off the chain of events by recusing himself from investigations rising out of the campaigns. He said there was no reason for Sessions to do so since he had nothing to do with Russia.
“It was a cataclysmic mistake. [House Intelligence Committee Chairman] Devin Nunes did the same thing on the House Intel Committee,” he said. “Why did he step out?”
Hoekstra said Republicans tend to think they mollify Democrats by agreeing to some of their demands. But it has the opposite effect, he said.
“You give a little bit, and they’re gonna come back for more and more, because you keep showing weakness … They got what they wanted, and now they’re asking for more,” he said. “Republicans gotta — they need to stand up and fight.”
Hoekstra said Trump’s campaign pledge to “drain the swamp” has left him devoid of skilled operators who understand the ways of Washington.
“He needs some people who have actually been in the swamp and fought in the swamp, who know how to fight in the swamp,” he said. “There are some good people in the swamp who have done it, and they’ve backed them, and they’ve supported him.”
Hoekstra said holdovers from the Obama administration need to go. He said the president has been ill-served by his advisers. He reacted to a New York Times report that White House officials were aware that incoming National Security Adviser Flynn was under investigation and hired him, anyway. That is a failure of staff, Hoekstra said.
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“The job of these folks is to protect the president and protect the administration and don’t make these kind of mistakes,” he said.
Hoekstra said administration officials need to push back stronger on stories like a Washington Post report that Trump shared classified information with Russian diplomats in the Oval Office or a New York Times narrative that the president tried to get then-FBI Director James Comey to shut down the Flynn investigation. Both likely were factors in Rosenstein’s decision.
“The bottom line is, the guy responded, really, to fake news from The Washington Post on Monday and The New York Times on Tuesday,” he said. “These stories were headline news. Within 24 to 36 hours, they had major holes in these stories. But the narrative had been set that the president had leaked classified information and that there was this secret Comey memo out there.”
If Mueller is going to cast a wide net in his probe, Hoekstra said, he ought to investigate Russian ties to the Clinton family. He noted that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signed off on the transfer of 20 percent of America’s uranium reserves to a Russian-owned company.
“But Republicans aren’t even talking about that narrative,” he said, adding, “[Democrats have] got all kinds of ties to the Russians.”