Trump, Flake spar over special counsel, Russia investigation
PHOENIX — President Donald Trump and outgoing U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) continue to butt heads, even as Flake heads out the door.
After Trump forced Jeff Sessions to resign as attorney general this week, Flake called for a bill to be brought to the Senate floor to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
But that did not sit well with the president, who tweeted Friday morning that “Jeff Flake(y) does not want to protect the Non-Senate confirmed Special Counsel, he wants to protect his future after being unelectable in Arizona for the ‘crime’ of doing a terrible job!”
Sessions announced he was resigning on Wednesday at the request of the president. The announcement came at the culmination of a toxic relationship between him and Trump that frayed when Sessions stepped aside from the investigation into potential coordination between the president’s campaign and Russia.
The move then opened the door to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller, who took over the Russia investigation and began examining whether Trump’s hectoring of Sessions was part of a broader effort to obstruct justice and stymie the probe.
Flake on Wednesday called for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act to a vote on the Senate floor. The bill, if passed, would essentially lay out rules for removing a special counsel.
“After the firing of The AG, it is more important than ever to protect the Special Counsel,” he said in a tweet.
But McConnell, speaking in Kentucky, said the bill would not be brought to the floor. “It’s not going to come up because it isn’t necessary,” he said.
Trump named Matthew Whitaker as his new acting attorney general, whose past business ties and comments on the Russia investigation and other topics have drawn scrutiny.
The implications for Mueller’s investigation were not immediately clear. The Justice Department did not announce on Wednesday a departure for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller more than a year and a half ago and has closely overseen his work since then.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.