Sen. Mike Lee of Utah said the Mueller report hasn’t changed his opinion of President Donald Trump and it likely won’t change the opinion of his colleagues, despite strong criticism from Sen. Mitt Romney, who in recent days said he was “sickened” by the behavior of the president.
Lee, who appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation" on Sunday, was asked if he agreed with the rebuke from his fellow Utah Republican senator. Lee said, “There’s nothing in this report that changes my view of this president. I don’t think most Americans, I don’t think most senators, most members of Congress ... will have their view of the president of the United States changed by this report. There’s just nothing in there that should do that.”
On Friday, the day after a redacted version of the report was made public, Romney issued a statement, which read in part:
“I am sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office of the land, including the President. I am also appalled that, among other things, fellow citizens working in a campaign for president welcomed help from Russia — including information that had been illegally obtained; that none of them acted to inform American law enforcement; and that the campaign chairman was actively promoting Russian interests in Ukraine.”
Trump hit back at Romney, tweeting out a video showing Romney losing his 2012 bid to unseat President Barack Obama and Trump’s 2016 victory. Trump wrote, “If @MittRomney spent the same energy fighting Barack Obama as he does fighting Donald Trump, he could have won the race (maybe)!”
While Lee didn’t agree with Romney’s criticism, he did say that Romney has “some credibility with regard to Russia.”
“Remember it was Senator Romney as a presidential candidate in 2012 who pointed out that we ought to be very concerned about Russia. Sadly, his warnings went unheeded. And under President Obama’s leadership over the next four years, Russia’s activities, its nefarious efforts to undermine our system, continued,” Lee said. “Perhaps that’s some of what’s motivating Senator Romney to speak out about this.”
The Mueller report is the conclusion of a two-year investigation into the Trump campaign and Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The special counsel investigation found no conspiracy between Trump’s team and the Russians, though Trump’s campaign welcomed help from the foreign adversary, which included the release of emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign aides. The report leaves open the question of whether the president obstructed justice by trying to hobble the investigation itself.
Lee had joined Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, and others on “Face the Nation” to talk about the political fallout and what steps Congress may take, including potential impeachment proceedings.
Cummings acknowledged a lot of people are tired of hearing about the Mueller report but said Russia isn’t getting tired of attacking the U.S. electoral system.
“If we do nothing here, what is going to happen is that the president is going to be emboldened. He’s going to be emboldened because he’s said, ‘Well, I got away with that.’ And then the people who — his aiders and abettors ... the Republicans in the Congress — they’ll say, ‘Oh, he is pretty strong,’ and they’ll continue to go along with him,” Cummings said. “We cannot afford that, our democracy cannot afford that.”
Lee, who also noted Russia’s attempts to undermine the electoral process, said he expected Democrats would do what they wanted, even though the report showed there was no collusion. But it’s time to move on, he said, issuing a warning about continuing to investigate Trump.
“Politically speaking, it would be a mistake.”