One of the most conservative Republicans in the House is calling on Department of Justice special counsel Robert Mueller to resign his post.
Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) said Monday that Mueller should resign because he has a "conflict of interest,” citing Mueller’s close relationship with fired FBI Director James Comey. Fox News reported on Mueller’s relationship with Comey shortly after Mueller was appointed as special counsel.
Mueller, a former FBI director himself, was tasked in May with continuing the bureau’s investigation into Russian interference in last year’s election, which includes a probe into President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and alleged inappropriate contacts with Russian officials.
"Bob Mueller is in clear violation of federal code and must resign to maintain the integrity of the investigation into alleged Russian ties,” Franks said in a statement, according to the Washington Examiner.
"Those who worked under them have attested he and Jim Comey possess a close friendship, and they have delivered on-the-record statements effusing praise of one another,” he explained.
In fact, Franks — a member of the House Freedom Caucus and House Judiciary Committee — believes Mueller’s conflict of interest runs so deep that no one can dispute that Mueller “appears to be a partisan arbiter of justice."
"No one knows Mr. Mueller's true intentions, but neither can anyone dispute that he now clearly appears to be a partisan arbiter of justice. Accordingly, the law is also explicitly clear: he must step down based on this conflict of interest,” Franks said.
In addition to his close relationship with Comey, Franks also cited the histories of the lawyers who Mueller has assembled to assist him in his investigation as reason why Mueller must call it quits. Several members of Mueller’s team have previously donated to Democratic campaigns — including Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.
"Already, this investigation has become suspect — reports have revealed at least four members of Mueller's team on the Russia probe donated to support Hillary Clinton for President, as President Trump pointed out. These obviously deliberate partisan hirings do not help convey impartiality,” Franks explained.
Given all of these factors, Franks said Mueller will be in “violation” of the law until he resigns.
"Until Mueller resigns, he will be in clear violation of the law, a reality that fundamentally undermines his role as special counsel and attending ability to execute the law,” the congressman said.
Franks' remarks echo sentiment shared by Trump and his closest advisers. The president has had no issue making it publicly known how he feels about Mueller or the Russia investigation, several times labeling it a “witch hunt."
Meanwhile, Trump has reportedly been searching for an avenue to appropriately dismiss Mueller.
But that has presented another problem for Trump. Sessions recused himself from the Russian investigation, meaning his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, has assumed leadership over the investigation. Because of this, Trump has expressed his frustrations with Sessions over his recusal and said recently that he never would have appointed Sessions had he known Sessions would remove himself from the investigation.
That has led some, like Fox News host Dana Perino, to predict that the shake up plaguing the White House in recent weeks has been completely orchestrated with the end goal being to remove Sessions from his post at the Department of Justice.
Perino said last Friday that with then-Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly moving to the White House as Trump’s chief of staff, it would make most sense to move Sessions to the DHS because he is an immigration hawk and it would make the attorney general post available for a new Trump ally.
However, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) threw a wrench in that plan when he said recently that, if Trump removes Sessions with the intention of appointing a more friendly attorney general, then Grassley will refuse to hold a hearing for whomever Trump appoints to replace Sessions.