Let’s start with the good news: despite being an early skeptic on the need for a special prosecutor to investigate possible collusion between Russian entities and President Donald Trump’s campaign, Senator Chuck Grassley told CNN’s Manu Raju today, “The president should let the special counsel do his job.”
Commenting further on Robert Mueller’s first indictments, Grassley said in a written statement that “it’s important to let our legal system run its course,” and that the “Judiciary Committee is continuing its work to ensure that the Justice Department and FBI are functioning free from inappropriate influence […].” As chair of that Committee, Grassley is better-placed than most Republicans to let the White House know Congress will not tolerate efforts to obstruct justice by firing Mueller before his investigation is complete.
The rest of Grassley’s news release focused on a small part of Mueller’s case against Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and his longtime business partner Rick Gates. Seizing on that angle–failure by Manafort and Gates to register as foreign agents–allowed the senator to highlight his longstanding concerns about similar lawbreaking by Democratic consultants and lobbyists. Today’s statement continued Grassley’s pattern of focusing his investigative energy on “tangential subjects,” in an apparent effort “to minimize the culpability of Trump and his aides and to deflect attention from the core issues of the controversy.”
Grassley did not address a newly-disclosed guilty plea by a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser. The government’s “Statement of the Offense” charging George Papadopoulos with lying to the FBI, filed on October 5 but released today, lays out a damning timeline of attempts to connect Trump representatives with Russian officials. That document also indicates that Papadopoulos has been cooperating with investigators, who know more than what has been made public so far.