U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill told reporters Thursday that efforts to uncover the truth about Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election have grown increasingly bipartisan in the last week.
“Many of my Republican colleagues are coming out of the shadows,” said McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat who will stand for re-election next year in a state that President Donald Trump won by double digits.
McCaskill’s comments came the day after the U.S. Department of Justice announced the appointment of former FBI director Robert Mueller as a special counsel to investigate links between Russia and Trump’s presidential campaign.
McCaskill, a former Jackson County prosecutor, said she could not imagine a better selection than Mueller, who spent 15 years as attorney in the Justice Department and 12 years as FBI director.
“I think he will run a tight ship. And the nice thing about Robert Mueller is he will be respected by the members of the FBI. They haven’t been getting a lot of respect lately,” she said. McCaskill said that Mueller’s appointment ensures that the investigation can proceed without political interference.
Mueller’s appointment, which comes a week after Trump fired FBI director James Comey, won praise from most of the Kansas City region’s lawmakers regardless of party.
U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican, called Mueller “a well-respected former FBI director and U.S. attorney” and said he had “no doubt he will be thorough and objective.”
Blunt, who previously opposed appointing a special counsel, promised that the Senate Intelligence Committee, which he sits on, would continue with its bipartisan investigation.
U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder, an Overland Park Republican, called Mueller “a man of the utmost integrity and the American people can trust him to go where the facts lead.”
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican, said in a statement Wednesday night that there “have been many questions raised about the effect of Russian interference in our elections, and I welcome the naming of a special counsel to conduct the investigation.”
Moran had not previously supported the appointment of special counsel, but he strongly backed the decision this week.
“With this appointment, my hope is that the distractions can stop, the counsel can do his job and Congress and the president can deal with the many challenges facing our country,” he said. “I expect Mr. Mueller’s pursuit of truth to be conducted in a manner that gives the American people confidence in the findings, regardless of the outcome.”
A spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, said he also supports the appointment despite previously saying there was no need for a special prosecutor.
U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Kansas City Democrat who had sent a letter to the Justice Department urging a special counsel, said Wednesday evening that the move gives him “hope that we are on a path to restoring America’s trust and most importantly, learning what happened.”
However, not all lawmakers from the region celebrated the news of the appointment. U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, a freshman Republican who represents western Kansas, echoed comments Trump made on social media referring to the investigation as a witch hunt and slammed media coverage on the controversies.
“Long before this witch hunt, there’s been a clear slant that has permeated our national political coverage. Half-truths and innuendo have defined the conversation,” Marshall said in a statement. “Having said that, if a special counsel is what it will take for Washington to move on to do the people’s work — so be it.
“I wish the national media would balance their focus on the many good things this President and Congress are doing.”
McCaskill, however, said that fewer Republicans are interested in “circling the wagons” to protect Trump following the news of the last two weeks.
McCaskill called the announcement from U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, a breakthrough. Chaffetz said he would use the House Oversight Committee’s subpoena power to obtain records after Trump reportedly shared classified information with Russian officials at a meeting last week.
“This is dealing with a foreign country. In Watergate, you dealt with a burglary on American soil,” McCaskill said, contending that the task before investigators is even more challenging than the scandal that took down Richard Nixon’s presidency.
“Until we see the documents, until we see sworn testimony it is inappropriate to talk about any conclusions,” she said.