GOP Senators Pour Cold Water On Bannon Push To Defund Mueller Probe

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., delivers remarks at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., Monday, Oct. 30, 2017. McCain, who graduated from the Academy in 1958, returned to his alma mater to address the Brigade of Midshipmen on leadership and service to the nation. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Patrick Semansky/AP

Three Republican senators told TPM on Tuesday that they oppose calls from former White House adviser Steve Bannon to defund Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into connections between the Trump campaign and administration and the Russian government. Because Republicans only have a 52-seat majority in the Senate, those three would be enough to block such a bill from passage if it ever came to the Senate floor.

An amendment has already been introduced in the House that would completely defund Mueller’s work after six months, and limit the scope of what he can investigate, but several senators said they would vote against such a measure if it made its way to the upper chamber.

“I would oppose, and so would the American people,” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said Tuesday. “The American people want a complete and thorough investigation. That’s one thing I know.”

Stepping into the Senate elevators, he repeated his usual metaphor for Mueller’s investigation and the crimes it may uncover going forward. “It’s a centipede,” he quipped. “More shoes are going to drop.”

McCain’s fellow Arizonan, Sen. Jeff Flake, agreed that Congress should not strip the special counsel of his funding: “I would not support it,” he said. ‘He needs to continue to investigate. I have confidence in Bob Mueller.”

McCain and Flake are two of the Senate GOP’s most outspoken members with little to lose—the former struggling with terminal cancer and the latter having already announced he’ll retire in 2019. But at least one newly-elected Republican senator is also openly opposed to any effort to defund Mueller’s probe.

“I don’t want to deny the DOJ and special counsel the resources they need,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) told reporters Tuesday. “Now, I don’t want to see them go hog wild and waste money either, but I don’t want to do anything to try to hurt their effort.”

In the wake of Monday’s news that Mueller had secured the indictments of two former Trump campaign officials and struck a plea deal with a third, other Republican senators offered that they are generally opposed to any effort to shut down the investigation, but wouldn’t completely close the door on defunding down the road.

“If the counsel is doing his job, and they’ve followed the facts and done what they’re supposed to do, and they’re looking for justice and truth, I think the people ought to support them,” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) told TPM. “But if you have misconduct by the special counsel, then they ought to fire him or they ought to cut his money off. We’ll see what happens.”