WASHINGTON — Speaker Paul Ryan said he doesn’t believe there is a need for Congress to pass any kind of legislation aimed at protecting special counsel Robert Mueller from termination.
“I don't think it's necessary,” the Wisconsin Republican said during an interview that aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” when specifically asked whether he would bring such a bill to the House floor if it passed the Senate. “I don't think he's going to fire Mueller.”
“First of all, I don't think he should be fired,” Ryan reiterated. “I think he should be left to do his job, and I don't think they're really contemplating this. We’ve had plenty of conversations about this. It's not in the president's interest to do that. We have a rule of law system. No one is above that rule of law system.”
Ryan’s comments came days after White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said President Donald Trump believes it’s within his power to fire Mueller, the former FBI director who is leading the investigation into Russian attempts to interfere in American elections, among other matters. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been adamant that the president should not remove the special counsel.
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The New York Times first reported last week that Trump sought to fire Mueller as recently as December, and NBC News reported that the recent FBI raid on Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen has upended talks for the president to sit down for an interview with Mueller’s team.
Ryan's interview also came just as another former FBI director, James Comey, who Trump fired last May, embarks on a media tour to promote his new book, which asserts that Trump is “unethical” and “untethered to truth and institutional values.”
Asked whether he believes Comey is a man of integrity, Ryan responded, “as far as I know,” but resisted answering further questions about him.
“I've met him two or three times in two or three briefings,” Ryan said. “I don't really know the guy. I'm not trying to be evasive. But what I don't want to do is join some food fight, some book-selling food fight. I don't see any value in that.”
Days after announcing his decision to leave Congress at the end of the year, Ryan had only gracious things to say about the president.
“We have a good relationship,” he said. “We've gotten a lot done together.”
Ryan said Trump was “disappointed” in his decision to leave elected office, “but he understood.”
The speaker also rejected the notion that this era in political history could one day be looked back on as a victory of “Trumpism over Ryanism.”
“I just don't see it like that,” Ryan said, pointing to progression on two of his priorities over the last year, tax legislation and military funding.
But pressed on some policy differences between him and the president, like trade and the role of entitlement spending, Ryan noted “no two people are going to agree on everything.”
“We have different styles,” he continued. “We have different ideas. But it's a big tent party. And we represent different corners of the tent.”