Pointing to an alleged conflict of interest, a Republican congressman from Arizona called on Tuesday for special counsel Robert Mueller to resign.

Rep. Trent Franks, an eight-term Republican, argued that Mueller has an ethical duty to step down because of his friendship with fired FBI Director James Comey, who would be a key witness in determining whether President Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice.

“Bob Mueller is in clear violation of federal code and must resign to maintain the integrity of the investigation into alleged Russian ties,” Franks said in a prepared statement. “Those who worked under them have attested he and Jim Comey possess a close friendship, and they have delivered on-the-record statements effusing praise of one another.”

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Mueller, a former FBI director, drew widespread bipartisan praise when Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed him in May to oversee the investigation into the 2016 election. Most Republicans have continued to tread cautiously when it comes to Mueller, refraining from criticism and — in some cases — warning Trump not to fire him.

But cracks in Mueller’s support may be starting to appear. In June, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) told The Blaze that Mueller should “recuse himself” from the investigation because of his “cozy relationship” with Comey.

Comey served as deputy attorney general during Mueller’s FBI tenure, and the two bonded in pushing back in 2004 against then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez’s efforts to expand domestic surveillance.

Franks cited federal regulations requiring disqualification in cases of “a personal relationship with any person substantially involved in the conduct that is the subject of the investigation or prosecution.”

That relationship could come into play as Mueller reportedly investigates whether Trump’s dismissal of the FBI director constituted obstruction of justice amid the bureau’s probe into whether Russian agents coordinated cybercrimes with the Trump campaign.

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Franks also pointed to the fact that Mueller stocked his staff with four lawyers who have contributed to the Democratic candidate — including one who represented the family-run Bill and Hillary Clinton Foundation.

“No one knows Mr. Mueller’s true intentions, but neither can anyone dispute that he now clearly appears to be a partisan arbiter of justice,” Franks said in his statement. “Accordingly, the law is also explicitly clear: He must step down based on this conflict of interest.”

He added: “Until Mueller resigns, he will be in clear violation of the law, a reality that fundamentally undermines his role as Special Counsel and attending ability to execute the law.”

(photo credit, homepage image: Ryan J. Reilly, Flickr)