President Trump Is 'Not Going to Fire Mueller,' Senator Lindsey Graham Tells Sean Hannity

Senator Lindsey Graham said Wednesday night that President Donald Trump did not plan to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, amid ongoing efforts by the opposition and even some Republicans to protect Mueller's probe into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The forced resignation of Jeff Sessions as attorney general last week sparked fears that Trump planned to move against Mueller. In 2017, Sessions recused himself from all investigations linked to Russia, handing oversight power to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, much to Trump's dismay.

Matt Whitaker is now acting attorney general and has taken over responsibility for the Mueller investigation, at least temporarily. The former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Iowa has been a supporter of Trump and a critic of the special counsel's investigation, and has even theorized as to how an attorney general could shut down the inquiry by defunding and limiting its scope, rather than firing those in charge.

Graham—a close ally of Trump's who is considered among the candidates to replace Sessions permanently—told Fox News host Sean Hannity: "President Trump is not going to fire Mueller."

Hannity himself had already suggested that a dismissal was not in the cards, claiming—without providing evidence—that "some agreement has been made" between Trump's lawyers and Mueller. Citing "reports I read," Hannity suggested the probe was "now coming to an end, at least in my mind."

In response, Graham floated the idea of Mueller's removal was merely a "manufactured problem. At the end of the day," he said, "I am convinced that Mr. Mueller will be allowed to do his job."

In July 2017, Graham said there would be "holy hell to pay" if Trump fired Sessions during his investigation. But since then, the South Carolina lawmaker has become a staunch ally of the administration. Since Sessions stepped down, Graham has been under pressure to reiterate his past support of the Russia investigation.

But Graham now seemed to be backtracking. Last Sunday, Fox News host Martha MacCallum asked him about his "holy hell" assertion, only for Graham to ask: "So, when was that?… What year?"

"Things have changed," Graham eventually said. "What I've been saying for months is every president deserves an attorney general they have confidence in and they can work with."

In his Wednesday interview with Hannity, Graham dismissed the Mueller probe. "I have not seen one scintilla of evidence of collusion," he said, adding that "the obstruction of justice thing never made any sense to me."

Outgoing Senator Jeff Flake said Wednesday that he would not vote to confirm any judicial nominees unless Republican leaders allowed a vote on a bill that would protect Mueller from Trump's firing.

The threat came after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked a bipartisan effort to bring the bill to the floor, CNN reported. McConnell had previously argued that the bill was unnecessary because Trump would not fire the special counsel.

McConnell has signaled his intention to continue the Republican push to appoint new judges— which Republicans can do, given that they still control the Senate, despite significant House losses in the midterm elections. Graham told Hannity: "We need conservative judges on the bench, as many as we can."

It is not yet clear whether Senator Chuck Grassley would continue as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2019 or whether the job would go to another Republican member. Graham said that, if he ended up in the chair, "we are going to do judges, judges, and more judges."

This article was updated to correct a remark attributed to Lindsey Graham.