WASHINGTON – Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) told PJM that recently appointed special counsel Robert Mueller should “recuse himself” from the Russia probe due to his personal friendship with former FBI Director James Comey.
Mueller served 12 years as FBI director under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. For two of those years, during the Bush administration, Comey was deputy attorney general.
Comey’s congressional testimony about the FBI investigation into possible collusion between Russian officials and the Trump campaign was reportedly postponed so he could speak with Mueller in advance. Franks called the delay “collusion.”
In an exclusive interview, Franks was asked if he thinks the Russia investigation is going to hinder President Trump’s agenda.
“It will be a challenge, but here’s what I think will happen. Now, who knows what ancillary things will come from it, that’s the problem with any sort of special counsel is that they go in all different directions at once. And, of course, Mr. Mueller is a very well-known very close friend of Mr. Comey’s – that alone should cause him to recuse himself,” Franks, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said Tuesday on Capitol Hill.
“Certainly, if that was a Republican situation everybody would be up in arms saying he should recuse himself because Mr. Comey and Mr. Mueller, neither of them, could ever credibly deny that they are not close personal friends, and yet that doesn’t seem to occur to some of our friends on the left,” he added. “In the final analysis, I think if there’s a fair investigation that the result is going to be so crystal-clear that there was no illegal coordination between the president and Russia to illegally impact the American election.”
House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) revealed Tuesday that Comey told him he wanted to speak with former FBI director Mueller before his public testimony that had been scheduled for today. The Senate Intelligence Committee announced last week that Comey has agreed to testify in open session sometime after Memorial Day. Franks said the meeting between Comey and Mueller before Comey’s public hearings constitute collusion.
“What if they let witnesses in a judicial trial do that – the collusion of witnesses? I mean, talk about collusion, you know, if that doesn’t define it I’m at a loss for words as to what would. It really becomes, the left in their ostensible moral outrage, becomes so laughable in their complete blindness to their own duplicity that it beggars description,” Franks said in the interview.
Reports have claimed that Trump asked Comey to back off of former National Security advisor Michael Flynn, a February Oval Office conversation detailed by Comey in a memo. “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump allegedly told Comey. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
Franks said he thinks Trump would not have violated any statutes by defending Flynn in a conversation with Comey.
“If [Trump] said, ‘you back off or I will do this,’ then that’s a threat and that’s a different equation. But if he says, ‘come on, Flynn’s a good guy,’ I think if the president was trying to defend a friend he thought was the subject of injustice. I don’t know how many of us would really hold that against him, you know, because I think General Flynn has been the subject of some injustice,” he said. “I don’t suggest I know all of the dynamics of what occurred there. There may have been some inappropriate actions on his part or failure to disclose on his part. Time will tell, but the man has been pilloried in the press to a profound degree and only President Trump could claim he has really been abused by several orders of magnitude more than General Flynn.”
Franks said Trump waited too long to fire Comey.
“He should have done many things. He should have said we are putting the embassy in Jerusalem the first day. We’re letting Comey go. We’re draining the swamp in a big way and you have this long to get your house in order. We’re going to say, ‘90 days and you’re gone.’ We’re doing it right now. It should have been very decisive,” Franks said. “I can understand that, as far as I know he’s never been president before and it’s easy for any president in this day and age to underestimate the absolute rabid commitment on the side of the left to rule or ruin – that’s their only two options – so I hope all will be well and I actually predict that to be the case.”
Franks was also asked if he’s concerned that Comey’s testimony could hurt Trump.
“What can I say? Hell hath no fury like a bureaucrat fired. I don’t know. I don’t know what he will say, but I ultimately think that he will not lie,” Franks said. “Where are the statutes related to collusion? I don’t know where they are, but I think ultimately it will be discovered that whatever the president said there was nothing there where he used his presidential power to prevent or impede an investigation.”
The Arizona congressman said he doubts that House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would begin to echo the Democrats’ narrative about Trump and the Russia investigation anytime soon.
“I think hell will freeze over and fall in the abyss before they get Speaker Ryan to be a part of an unjust effort to delegitimize this president. I think the only thing that would move Paul in any direction like that would be incontrovertible evidence, which is the last thing on earth the Democrats have,” Franks said. “[Trump] would have to break the law and he hasn’t broken the law. I mean, he would have to break the law in a flagrant and significant way and he hasn’t done that. If you look at the American people, they are not backing away from Trump. The people who are supporting him are as much for as him as ever.”
Former CIA Director John Brennan told the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that he was “concerned” about potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
“I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals,” Brennan said.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, downplayed Brennan’s testimony, pointing to the lack of an FBI investigation of the DNC’s servers after the hacking took place.
“People like Mr. Brennan and Mr. Clapper or anyone who was in the Obama administration that concluded that Russia hacked into the DNC system without having a United States federal government investigatory body actually get to investigate the DNC computer system is either not an honest person or they’re not diligent enough to know how to do their job properly. Because if they were, they would have insisted that before the United States government or one of its officials could say the Russians hacked into the DNC system, they would have had to have a government entity actually get into the DNC system,” Gohmert told PJM on Capitol Hill.
“Instead, from what I understand, it was a private firm the DNC hired with Democrat operatives running it, and people like Brennan just took what they were told by a politically motivated company who was hired to give a story, investigate the system and they accepted it without anything whatsoever. To me, that just tells you a lot about the credibility of the people from the Obama administration. So, frankly, I don’t really care what Brennan said, what Clapper said, they either were not competent or they were not honest, one or the other,” he added.
Gohmert charged that Democrats “are looking for anything to take observations off of the Obama administration.”
Franks argued that the Democrats are using the hack of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to delegitimize Trump’s presidency without solid evidence.
“There’s no one who can show me one statute that the man has broken, not one. And so, the left couldn’t even find Russia on the map until Donald Trump came along and they thought they could use that as political leverage against him, that they could use Russia as political leverage against him,” Franks said. “I think [John] Brennan had to admit in the final analysis that he had no indication, there’s nothing he knew that indicated a Russian cover-up or Russian collusion – he had to admit that, but I think as best he could he tried to make little snide nuances to try to fan the flames of the issue. But in the final analysis he couldn’t come up with anything of substance.”