House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, speaks during her weekly press conference on Capitol Hill on Oct. 26, 2017. (Associated Press
Democrats demanded Monday that Congress approve a bill preventing the special counsel from being fired after Robert Mueller unsealed charges against three former Trump campaign officials concerning their work with or on behalf of Russian interests.
Sen. Mark R. Warner, Virginia Democrat and vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, said the charges against Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman and top deputy, and the guilty plea from a foreign policy advisor, are reasons to quickly protect Mr. Mueller from interference by an angry president.
“Members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, must also make clear to the president that issuing pardons to any of his associates or to himself would be unacceptable, and result in immediate, bipartisan action by Congress,” Mr. Warner said in a statement.
Mr. Mueller, the special counsel, unsealed indictments against Paul Manafort, who served as Trump campaign chairman from March to August, and against his deputy Rick Gates, charging them with a long-running scheme to represent pro-Russian interests in Ukraine, laundering money and avoiding taxes for the operation, then lying to investigators to cover it up.
The crucial activity appeared to take place before 2014, or well before the campaign.
But Mr. Mueller also unsealed a guilty plea entered earlier this month by George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy advisor, who admitted to lying to cover up contacts he had during the campaign with someone promising dirt on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Democrats said the charges showed there were live targets for Mr. Mueller’s investigation within the Trump campaign operation, and said it’s a reason to defend the special counsel against interference.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, warned Mr. Trump not to intervene to help his two former associates.
“The president must not, under any circumstances, interfere with the special counsel’s work in any way. If he does so, Congress must respond swiftly, unequivocally, and in a bipartisan way to ensure that the investigation continues,” he said.
Multiple congressional committees are probing Russian activities during the election, including Mr. Warner’s panel.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she still wants to see yet another investigation launched.
“Even with an accelerating Special Counsel investigation inside the Justice Department, and investigations inside the Republican Congress, we still need an outside, fully independent investigation to expose Russia’s meddling in our election and the involvement of Trump officials,” Ms. Pelosi said in a statement.