The White House and Trump himself have said he has no intention of firing Mueller, a statement that spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders reiterated on Monday. “There’s no intention or plan to make any changes with regard to the special counsel,” she said. But the president has not ruled out going after Mueller, and Democrats remain concerned that he could change his mind at any time. Sanders said multiple times the White House expected the special counsel to wrap up his inquiry “soon,” but she wouldn’t elaborate on why the administration believed that. The indictments on Monday gave the opposite indication—that Mueller was just getting started in a new, more aggressive phase of his investigation.
After Schumer’s statement, Mueller’s office revealed that a third former Trump campaign official, George Papadopoulos, had agreed to plead guilty to making false statements to the FBI about conversations he had with Russian nationals after he officially joined the campaign.
In recent days, calls by conservative commentators to shut down Mueller’s probe or for Trump to begin issuing preemptive pardons have grown, most notably in the pages and on the airwaves owned by Rupert Murdoch. The president himself spent the weekend and Monday morning urging an investigation into his defeated opponent, Hillary Clinton, and the payments by Democratic organizations directed to research that led to a dossier of damaging but unverified allegations against Trump.
“Members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, must also make clear to the president that issuing pardons to any of his associates or to himself would be unacceptable, and result in immediate, bipartisan action by Congress,” said Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the Democratic vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, which is continuing its own investigation into Russian interference in the campaign and potential collusion by the Trump campaign. The top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, issued a similar statement and said Mueller’s “independence must remain sacrosanct.” Asked specifically about the possibility of pardons, Sanders said only that the White House would let the “process play through.”
Republicans largely kept quiet on Monday morning after the charges were announced, although several lawmakers reacted to the indictments later in the day after they returned to Washington. House Speaker Paul Ryan issued no statement of his own, but during an appearance on a Wisconsin radio show, he rejected the idea that the indictments would interfere with the GOP’s top legislative priority: tax reform.
“I really don’t have anything to add, other than nothing’s going to derail what we’re doing in Congress,” Ryan said. Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee plan to unveil the party’s long-awaited tax legislation on Wednesday. Asked again about the news later in the day, Ryan said he hadn’t read the indictments in detail. “That’s what Bob Mueller was tasked to do,” he said. “That’s how the judicial process works.”