Republican senator unsure he agrees with Trump that Russia probe is 'witch hunt'

“I'm not sure that I agree with the witch hunt," Tillis said.

ByABC News
August 6, 2017, 12:10 PM

— -- A Republican senator on the Senate Judiciary Committee told ABC News on Sunday that he is not sure he agrees with President Donald Trump's dismissal of the Russia investigation as a "witch hunt."

ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos asked Sen. Thom Tillis on "This Week" Sunday if he agrees with the president’s recent statement that "the entire Russia story [is] a fabrication, a witch hunt and a hoax."

“I'm not sure that I agree with the witch hunt, and we'll let the facts lead us to whether or not it was a hoax,” the North Carolina senator said. “But we are where we are, and I want to see this investigation concluded so that we can get onto doing the good work the president has already started with regulatory reform, health care and tax reform.”

Tillis and a Democratic colleague on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chris Coons of Delaware, have introduced legislation aimed at protecting the role of Special Counsel Robert Mueller in leading the Russia investigation. The bill, called the Special Counsel Integrity Act, would allow any special counsel terminated from their position to challenge the firing before a three-judge panel.

“It is in everyone's best interest for Bob Mueller to be able to carry forward this investigation to its conclusion, so that we can get back to working in a responsible and bipartisan way.” Tillis said.

Coons added, "If the president should fire Robert Mueller abruptly, that would be crossing a big line."

The Delaware Democrat said that if Mueller was terminated, "I think you would see strong bipartisan action from the Senate, which might include our reinstating him or our rehiring him to continue to conduct that investigation on behalf of Congress."

“We've already heard strong interest from colleagues on both sides of the aisle in supporting this legislation,” said Coons. “I think this is also an important bipartisan effort that may shore up the rule of law and the separation of powers, and may ultimately get passed.”

Tillis said the bill is important for protecting the long-term independence of the Department of Justice. “This is something that lives beyond this special counsel,” he said.

Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., also introduced a bipartisan bill aimed at protecting Mueller’s job as special counsel. Their legislation would block the president from firing a special counsel without approval from a federal judge.

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