Conservative lawmaker Trey Gowdy defended Robert Mueller on Sunday, saying the Russia special counsel was right to refer the case of Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen to federal prosecutors in New York.
Since announcing a few weeks ago that he wouldn’t run for re-election, Gowdy (R-SC) increasingly has been speaking against his previously redder-than-red type.
A few weeks ago, he admonished President Donald Trump’s attorney John Dowd on the Fox News Sunday program, saying, “If you have an innocent client, Mr. Dowd, act like it.” Earlier this month, he confessed to CNN that he felt he hasn’t “been good in Congress,” and that the U.S. legislature is too mired in partisan wrangling to be effective — an explanation of why he has decided to leave the body.
Now Gowdy is offering up remarks of support for Mueller, who has become a object of scorn from many in his party. The Republican House member said that in his view, Mueller acted properly by referring the Cohen case to federal prosecutors in New York.
“I don’t know what Robert Mueller was supposed to other than what he did,” Gowdy said.
Gowdy, the House Oversight Chairman, attained a measure of notoriety while presiding over hearings into the attacks on US officials in Benghazi, Libya — an investigation that was largely used to try to attack then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Gowdy also said he sees no basis for firing Rosenstein, who is overseeing Mueller’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
“Does he have the power to get rid of Rod Rosenstein? Yes, he does. Do I think it’s wise? No, I don’t,” Gowdy said.
Last week, reports emerged that Trump was considering firing Rosenstein, a move that could further Trump’s goal of trying to hamstring — and eventually sack — Mueller.
The reports came a day after the FBI raided the home, office, and hotel room of Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer who has been “under criminal investigation” for months in New York because of his business dealings, the Justice Department said Friday.
.@TGowdySC on FBI raid of Michael Cohen: I don’t know what Robert Mueller was supposed to do other than what he did.
— FoxNewsSunday (@FoxNewsSunday) April 15, 2018
In the filing with a court in New York, the Justice Department blacked out a section describing what laws they believe Cohen has broken, but they said the “crimes being investigated involve acts of concealment” and suspected fraud.
Trump reportedly was enraged by reports that FBI agents working for the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York raided Cohen’s property on Monday morning, seizing electronic devices, personal financial records, and attorney-client communications.
Also last week, White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders suggested the Trump administration had sought legal advice about Trump possibly firing Mueller. That stands in contrast to what the administration was saying recently as last month, when a White House attorney for Trump said the president “is not considering or discussing” firing Mueller.
“How this is Mueller’s fault just defies logic to me,” Gowdy said about the raid on Cohen’s office.
Gowdy, who announced in January that he would not be seeking reelection this fall, emphasized that Mueller did what he “was supposed to do” when he found potential criminal wrongdoing by Cohen: He referred the case to local federal prosecutors in Manhattan. Among the records seized by investigators during the raids were “protected attorney-client communications.”
“We know a neutral, detached federal magistrate had to sign off on the search warrant,” Gowdy said in the interview, explaining why he saw nothing wrong with the raids on Cohen’s property. “We know that it requires the highest levels of DOJ permission to seize attorney-client records. And by that, I mean the attorney general or the deputy attorney general.”