Politics

Johnson Claims Mueller Probe ‘Hampered’ Congressional Investigations

'Public disclosure' is 'harmed when you start having special counsels and all the information is gathered and held close,' GOP senator said

Special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed “too soon” because such officials often hamper congressional investigations into the same issue while preventing the disclosure the public deserves, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said Sunday on the NBC News program “Meet the Press.”

“What I’ve always said about it was [that] the special counsel was named far too soon. I would have much rather had the Senate and House intelligence committees complete their report because I know what happens,” said Johnson (pictured above). “When you have a criminal investigation, it’s that much more difficult for Congress to get the information to allow the American public to understand what’s happening here.”

The chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Johnson said it would have been better if Mueller had been appointed to investigate allegations of collusion between Russia and President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign after letting “the process play out” in Congress.

Johnson said special counsels and congressional oversight committees have “completely different goals” when it comes to conducting investigations like the Russia probe. “I think in this case the most important thing is public disclosure, and that is harmed when you start having special counsels, and all the information is gathered and is held close,” he said.

When “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd asked Johnson if he thinks Mueller’s investigation “hampered” the congressional committees’ investigations, Johnson replied, “Yes, I think, absolutely.”

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“My concern with special counsel Mueller is he’s so close to the FBI,” Johnson said. “You know, I’ve been conducting a[n] …investigation on the FBI’s investigation into [2016 Democratic presidential nominee] Hillary Clinton. I think we’re starting to see some real problems here.”

He added, “And I just didn’t think somebody so close like … former [FBI] Director Mueller would be the right type of person to investigate that. I just thought he was appointed too soon. I would have rather had the process play out because I think public disclosure — the public’s right to know — trumps everything else.”

If Mueller requested that Trump testify under oath as part of his investigation, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) warned Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that there could be disastrous consequences for Trump.

“[Trump] should never walk into that room with Robert Mueller,” Christie said. “One of the things that makes the president who he is is that he’s a salesman, and salesmen at times tend to be hyperbolic, right? And this president has certainly tended to be that.”

Christie added, “That’s OK when you’re working on Congress. It is not OK when you’re sitting talking to federal agents because 18 U.S. C 1001 is false statements to federal agents. That’s a crime that can send you to jail.”

Alan Dershowitz, a professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, warned that Trump could be endangered if he were asked questions about the women who accused him of sexual misconduct or of engaging in consensual affairs with them while testifying under oath for Mueller’s probe.

“I would surely suggest that he never testify in any of the cases involving women, that he not make the mistake that [former President] Bill Clinton made, advised by [lawyer Robert S.] Bennett that he testify about his sex life,” Dershowitz said Sunday on “Meet the Press.”

Former Obama White House counsel Bob Bauer quipped on “Meet the Press,” “[Trump] might take the advice that he gave Bill Clinton in 1999 — take the Fifth.”

“I do not believe that engaging in a constitutionally authorized act can ever be the basis of a criminal charge,” said Dershowitz.

Dershowitz and Bauer also addressed legal disagreements over whether Trump could face charges of obstructing justice during the Mueller investigation if he were to pardon former aides entangled in the probe.

The New York Times and The Washington Post reported last week that former Trump personal attorney John Dowd floated the idea of pardoning former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Dershowitz argued that pardoning or offering pardons shouldn’t legally endanger Trump.

Related: Harvard Legal Icon Doubts Trump Pardon Narrative

“If he were ever to be charged or impeached for any of those acts, that would be a real constitutional conflict and we’d have arguments on both sides constitutionally,” Dershowitz said. “I do think that anything relating to pardon he would have a strong constitutional defense.”

“Once you start getting into the area of inquiring as to what the motive of a pardon was, you’re really getting into constitutionally difficult areas,” Dershowitz added. “I do not believe that engaging in a constitutionally authorized act can ever be the basis of a criminal charge.”

Bauer, however, disagreed with Dershowitz, saying, “If the president uses the pardon power for a corrupt purpose, then he’s exposed to criminal liability for that.”

“If his lawyer with his authority on his behalf offered a pardon as a means of tainting or corrupting testimony in a criminal proceeding, then I don’t see any basis for saying the president does not have to answer for that in the criminal justice system,” Bauer said.

PoliZette writer Kathryn Blackhurst can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter.

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