WASHINGTON — Reaction to the indictments against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, and the guilty plea from George Papadopoulos, in the special counsel investigation came quickly Monday on Capitol Hill, where the House and Senate Intelligence Committees — and the Senate Judiciary Committee — are conducting parallel investigations into Russian election meddling.
Republicans gave the special counsel a wide berth Monday.
“This is what Bob Mueller was tasked to do,” Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said.
“No reason not to trust him,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina.
Democrats, meanwhile, argued the indictments and the guilty plea from Papadopoulos are proof of a pattern — a pattern “of people affiliated with the Trump campaign lying about their connections with the Russians,” said Sen. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
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“At some point you have to ask, ‘Why all the deception?'” Schiff said.
Schiff told CBS News that Manafort’s shady financial dealings did not end when he went to work for candidate Trump.
“During the campaign while he’s campaign manager, [Manafort is] trying to obtain more money for his work for these pro-Russian interests in Ukraine; money like that which he has now been indicted for laundering,” Schiff said.
Republican Sen. Richard Burr, who is running the Senate’s Russia investigation, said Papadopoulos was a “person of interest” in his probe as well.
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“Lying to the FBI is a serious charge,” Burr said.
Democrats argue it’s time to pass a bill protecting special counsel Mueller from a presidential firing.
“The investigation must be allowed to proceed unimpeded,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said.
Republicans say President Trump knows better than to try that.
“The president should let the special counsel do his job,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said.
But they’d still rather talk about almost anything else.
“That really isn’t our job,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Monday.
“I don’t see how the indictment changes the president’s ability to do his job. There is a process for this to go forward. And I trust that it will happen,” Cornyn said.
The White House said Mr. Trump has no intention of trying to fire Mueller, and Republicans say that’s a good thing, because even his fellow Republican and recent golf partner Sen. Graham said there would be “holy hell” to pay if Muller were dismissed without cause.
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