It is time for special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into collusion allegations between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia “to be brought to an end,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said Sunday on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”
“I think the Mueller investigation ought to be brought to an end also,” Portman (pictured above) told NBC News host Chuck Todd. “I mean, we need to have the facts lead to the right conclusion, so I support the investigation, I have from the start. But we do need to wrap it up.”
Portman is a key senator: He is chairman of the investigations subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and a moderate Republican who has been a consistent supporter of letting the Mueller probe run its course.
Mueller entered his second year of helming the probe in May. Portman, also a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, emphasized that while he still supports the investigation and believes it is “important for us to get to the bottom of it,” he urged Mueller to “do it expeditiously.”
Portman also said the Trump administration’s “very tough” policies concerning Russia are “tougher, frankly, than [those of] the previous administration,” including imposing the “toughest sanctions since the Cold War.”
Despite liberal hysteria over allegations of Trump-Russia collusion, the senator praised Trump and his officials for “pushing back in other ways” against Russia.
“There are concerns, as I expressed, after Helsinki of an inconsistent public posture as to Russia,” Portman admitted, referring to Trump’s controversial press conference alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland. “But in terms of policy, I think the administration is doing things that are appropriate and very tough.”
Although Trump walked back several comments he made in Helsinki and in the days following bipartisan backlash, his policies are “a lot tougher than previously, and probably not making the Russians very happy,” Portman insisted.
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“But look, I think it’s fine if we have these conversations,” Portman said, noting that talking with Russian officials and cultivating a working relationship “are appropriate” measures for Trump to take.
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) also encouraged Trump to continue pushing for a better relationship with Putin and Russia at large.
“Even with the Russians interfering in our elections, we need to be able to have dialogues with them, we need to have open lines of communication, the same as what President Obama did in the past, when he had open meetings with Putin knowing that Putin was trying to interfere in our elections,” Lankford said Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week.”
“It’s appropriate for Trump to be able to do the same thing,” Lankford added. “The big issue, though, is we’ve got to be able to push back with force. Having a meeting and just saying we had a dialogue to have a dialogue doesn’t fix anything.”
Lankford expressed some concerns about Mueller’s probe, saying that “the whole thing has gotten confused” because “Americans turn on the TV every day and regardless of what channel or where they go to look for news online or in print, it’s constantly something else seems to be the story.”
“I think we’ve lost track of the fact that the Russians were trying to interfere in our election and to sew chaos into our democracy, and every single day I see a growing chaos in our democracy, just in the constant accusations back and forth,” Lankford said.
“So that is the grand challenge of this … to try to figure out what is just noise and what is actually beneficial for us to be able to pursue, as far as a real problem with not only our democracy but with integrity and such,” he said.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who in recent months has become the public face of Trump’s legal team, said Sunday on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” that the president still could sit down for an interview with Mueller as part of the probe if the questions were strictly limited to collusion topics.
“It relates basically … to the Russia collusion thing, which we think there’s no evidence of the president doing anything wrong. So we don’t really have much of a problem with it,” Giuliani said.
“With the obstruction [of justice] thing, it’s more a question of we don’t see the legal basis for a president obstructing by merely taking an action in firing somebody that he had every right to fire,” he said.
“I’ve looked at all those tweets, and they don’t amount to anything but the man complaining about an unfair investigation.”
Giuliani referred to Trump’s decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey in May 2017. Many of Trump’s critics claim the firing represented obstruction of justice because Comey was investigating the Russian collusion allegations.
“You know, we might consider a few questions in that area also. But at this point it’s best left to us and them to do that quietly,” Giuliani said, noting that he hopes to pin down with Mueller’s team “maybe this week” or “maybe next week” whether Trump can sit down for an interview.
Giuliani also responded to The New York Times’ report last week that Mueller was now analyzing Trump’s tweets for evidence of obstruction of justice.
“Obstruction by tweet is not something that I think works real well. Generally, obstruction is secret. It’s clandestine. It’s corrupt. You don’t want the evidence out in the public,” Giuliani said. “I’ve looked at all those tweets, and they don’t amount to anything but the man complaining about an unfair investigation.”