GOP Senator: Mueller’s Hiring Spree ‘Tainted’ Russia Probe
Jim Risch of Idaho says special counsel's team of 'activists' undermines integrity of investigation
Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho) said Tuesday that special counsel Robert Mueller’s hiring spree, which included Democratic donors and an attorney who represented Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, is “troubling” and has “tainted” the integrity of the entire probe.
Risch, a former attorney and a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, noted during an interview on “The Laura Ingraham Show” that Mueller selected attorney Jeannie Rhee, who represented President Donald Trump’s former foe and the Clinton Foundation in two 2015 lawsuits, to join the team of investigators probing the Russia collusion narrative. Risch said Democrats would “be screaming bloody murder” if an attorney who represented Trump or donated to Republicans were investigating Clinton.
“I have to tell you — I was surprised what Mueller did, of hiring those people, because it’s going to taint it. There’s no way around that. It’s going to taint it,” Risch said. “There’s thousands of lawyers in this town, tens of thousands of lawyers in this town that are former prosecutors and what have you. Why would you go get people who were activists against the person that you’re now investigating?”
“If they do something, it’s tainted. It’s tainted by all of that. I mean, I’d have a very difficult time accepting that, particularly from what I know from the Intelligence Committee versus what they’re doing. I’d have real trouble with it if they try to do something with this,” Risch added. “It’s troubling. You know, I guess you’ve got to wait and see when the thing is over.”
As one of the members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Risch had the opportunity to question former FBI Director James Comey earlier in June regarding Trump’s abrupt firing of him. Prior to his testimony, Comey asked a friend to leak portions of his memos detailing his conversations with Trump regarding the ongoing Russia investigation.
“That’s not the way you do that. I mean, if you want an investigation, you stand up and call for an investigation, you know? Look in the camera and say, ‘This deserves an investigation.’ But to do it — it was too slippery, as far as I’m concerned,” Risch said of Comey’s leak.
Risch made a point of probing Comey’s claims that he took Trump’s words that he “hoped” the FBI would be able to let the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn “go” in order to get to the bottom of the exchange.
“Do you know of any case where a person has been charged for obstruction of justice — or, for that matter, any other criminal offense — where they said or thought they ‘hoped’ for an outcome?” Risch had asked during the hearing. “You may have taken this as a direction, but that’s not what he said?”
Risch added, “You don’t know of anyone who’s ever been charged for ‘hoping’ something? Is that a fair statement?”
Comey had replied, “I don’t as I sit here.”
Risch said he has seen “no evidence” of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian election meddling yet.
“I think that obstruction of justice stuff is off the table,” Risch said. “Look, we were after the truth in this. The Intelligence Committee committed that we were going to follow the facts wherever they took us. And we’ve done that.”
“I think that obstruction of justice stuff is off the table.”
The Idaho Republican noted that the Russia collusion narrative really took off when The New York Times published a February 14 article erroneously claiming that Trump campaign officials had repeated contacts with Russian officials. Although this story “has been proven absolutely false,” Risch said, The Times has yet to retract it.
“And in that same testimony, I asked Comey, I reminded him that he had seen that article on February 14th. He checked with all 17 of the intelligence agencies, found zero evidence of that at all, took time to contact us and tell us that there was no such evidence, and then of course we took on the investigation,” Risch said. “We looked at thousands and thousands of pages and interviewed people.”
“It’s just not there. And The New York Times, the day after that, the Comey testimony, said, ‘We stand by our story,'” Risch added. “And then the national media wonder why they have a credibility problem at times. I mean, where’s the evidence? If that’s the case, Donald Trump’s campaign and whoever did that should be answerable for that. Where’s the proof? New York Times says they have it. Put it on the table.”
The country’s inability to come to terms with the genuine results of the 2016 presidential election and the Left’s subsequent attempts to concoct any impeachable offense to lay on Trump constitutes “a real deterioration in what we’ve prided ourselves in,” Risch said.
“And that is we have an election. When the election is over, we try to pull together, move on, but not continue this,” Risch said, adding that the U.S. is acting like third-world countries that try to jail their leaders.
Risch also took the opportunity to address the Senate’s painfully protracted impasse over health care reform. Although Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell initially insisted that the Senate would hold a vote on the partial repeal and replace of Obamacare this week, the vote has been pushed back, due to a lack of support.
“They’ve got more work to do, there’s no question about that. This is one of those things that, if you’re looking for perfection — first of all, you’re not going to find it in Congress by any stretch of the imagination. They’re not going to find it on this earth,” Risch said. “You want to pass something, and the objective is to pass something that at least does partial rollback of Obamacare. So what can you pass that meets that?”
“But look — the fact of the matter is, we should and would make every possible effort we can to undo Obamacare. If you can’t get rid of Obamacare completely because you can’t bring everybody along, what part of it can you get to go along with it?” Risch added. “A ‘no’ vote, then, is a vote to maintain Obamacare the way it is, and that’s not a pleasant thought.”