U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado said on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday that Robert Mueller’s investigation is “going to continue and it should continue.”
Host Chuck Todd asked the Colorado Republican about Mueller’s probe into any Russian involvement in Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign for the presidency and other matters, and whether the investigation needs to be protected by Congress.
Some Democrats have raised fears that Trump will move to end or scale back Mueller’s probe now that the president has forced out U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and named Matthew Whitaker — who has been critical of the investigation — as interim attorney general, placing him over the probe.
“I support the Mueller investigation,” Gardner, chairman of the National Republican Senate Committee, told Todd. “I know I’ve heard Senator [Mitch] McConnell [the Senate majority leader] say he supports the Mueller investigation. It’s important for the American people. It’s important that we have this for transparency. And I think it’s important for the president to have this information out there fully, transparently, and accurately.”
According to a transcript provided by NBC (see below), Todd then asked Gardner: “Does it need protection legislatively, though? Do you need to do that in the Senate?”
Gardner replied: “… Mueller is not going to be stopped. It’s going to continue and it should continue.”
“All right, but you didn’t say whether it was necessary in the Senate,” Todd replied, to which Gardner responded: “Well, I think it’s going to continue. If it continues … why protect something that’s actually continuing?”
Todd and Gardner also discussed Trump’s controversial recent statements about the California wildfires, the Florida election and other topics. CLICK HERE to watch the full interview.
Here is the full transcript as provided by NBC:
CHUCK TODD:Joining me now from the other side of the aisle is Senator Cory Gardner. He is the man who is in charge or, I guess, still in charge of trying to get Republicans elected to the Senate. And I say still in charge because we have some outcomes that we don’t know. Welcome to Meet the Press, sir.
SEN. CORY GARDNER:Hey, thanks for having me, Chuck.
CHUCK TODD:Let me just start quickly with the, the president’s comments about the wildfires. Number one, I was curious of what you made of the appropriateness of the president threatening to deny federal help to California in the moment that people were fighting for their life.
SEN. CORY GARDNER:Well, first of all, I think the Colorado thoughts and prayers of our state go out to California. We’ve been through this, certainly the catastrophes that we face each and every day we have a forest fire, what they’re going through, it’s just, it’s tragic and terrible. And I don’t think it’s appropriate to threaten funding. That’s not going to happen. Funding will be available. It always is available to our people wherever they are, whatever disaster they are facing. I do think, though, this year we came up with a strong bipartisan success in fixing the wildfire funding issue that had kind of paralyzed our ability to go out and fight fires and suppress fires and mitigate next year’s forest fires. So one of the great bipartisan accomplishments of this past Congress was actually in the area of forest fires and finding a solution for funding.
CHUCK TODD:Let me move to your job these days, which is at the NRSC. The Florida recounts. I want to play something that Governor Scott said on Thursday night when it was clear that we were headed into some form of a recount down in Florida. Here it is.
GOVERNOR RICK SCOTT:Every Floridian should be concerned there may be rampant fraud happening in Palm Beach and Broward Counties. We’ve all seen the incompetence and the irregularities in vote tabulations in Broward and Palm Beach for years. Well, here we go again. I will not sit idly by while unethical liberals try to steal this election from the great people of Florida.
CHUCK TODD: Do you have any evidence that fraud was committed? That somehow unethical liberals are down there are trying to change the vote in Broward County? Was that rhetoric — was that an appropriate timing for that rhetoric?
SEN. CORY GARDNER: Well, we have evidence that the state constitution of Florida was violated. A court in Florida has said that. We have evidence that people were going into unwitnessed areas filling out ballots, duplicating ballots, which is allowed under the law but only if you have witnesses on the canvassing board. We have, we have officials — elections officials who are disobeying court orders, or at least were disobeying court orders. So I understand Governor Scott’s frustration, that there are people who are breaking the law, violating the constitution in Florida in Broward County, in Palm. And so I think he’s right to be upset. Now what we have to do though is make sure that we are protecting the integrity of this, of this election. That we count every vote, that we count every ballot, that we make sure the integrity of this election is as strong as it can be. And that we keep out those attempts by some to violate the constitution.
CHUCK TODD:Do you believe —
SEN. CORY GARDNER:And where we have those–
SEN. CORY GARDNER:
Go ahead, Chuck, I’m sorry. ((OVERTALK))
CHUCK TODD:Do you believe Democrats, do you believe Democrats are actually trying to steal the election in Florida? Cause that’s what the president has implied–
SEN. CORY GARDNER:Well, I believe —
CHUCK TODD:— in his tweets. And that seemed to be the implication of Governor Scott.
SEN. CORY GARDNER:Well, let’s look at the courts in Florida. You have a court in Florida that has said the, the constitution of Florida has been violated. You have several cases —
CHUCK TODD:I understand that, but that, but that —
SEN. CORY GARDNER:— in Florida that are now going around that I feel strong about that.
CHUCK TODD:That doesn’t answer the question whether you think–
SEN. CORY GARDNER:Well, Chuck, you know there —
CHUCK TODD:— Democrats are trying to steal this.
SEN. CORY GARDNER:Well, I think it, I think it answers it very much. Is this a Democrat that’s doing this, that violated the constitution? Is this a Republican that’s doing this that violated the constitution? I’m going to leave it to the courts to decide how we best protect the integrity of this election. But I think every person in Florida and around this country has a, has an interest and a right to a secure, integrity-filled election. And that if somebody is violating the constitution, that’s got to stop. And that’s what we’re trying to do. Let’s get the results the Florida people actually went to the ballot on. Let’s make sure counties across Florida —
SEN. CORY GARDNER:
— have the same standards, that a vote in Miami is treated the same as a vote in Pensacola. And if they’re not, something is wrong with that process. So let’s get this fixed, let’s make sure this is right.
SEN. CORY GARDNER:
And let’s make sure we are proud of the results going forward in Florida.
CHUCK TODD:If a recount shows anything other than a Rick Scott victory, but there’s no, you can’t find any evidence of fraud or anything else, but the recount happens to show Bill Nelson winning, and it’s done on the up and up, are you going to accept those results?
SEN. CORY GARDNER:Well, look, this is going to be done on the up and up because we’re ensuring that. We’ve gone to court. We’ve won those court cases. We’ve proven that the violation, we’ve proven the violation of the Florida constitution. And I think that has shown the courts have worked. So I believe this will be a election that we can be proud of, an election that we were able to protect the voters in.
CHUCK TODD:I want to ask you about the Arizona Senate race. That count is still coming in. The president has tweeted about it, sort of implying that somehow fraud could still be going on. Arizona obviously has a lot of, history of taking a while to count. And I want to ask you about this, “Top officials at the White House and the Republican National Committee,” this is in Politico, “who have been prodding the McSally campaign to amp up its efforts have expressed frustration that the Arizona congresswoman hasn’t tried to drive a message that there’s something amiss with the vote count.” Do you believe there’s something amiss with the vote count in Arizona or not?
SEN. CORY GARDNER:Yeah, we’re still looking at hundreds of thousands of votes to be counted in Arizona. It’s a little bit different than what we’ve seen in Florida whether it’s incompetence or corruption, they’re kind of the same side of the ledger. What we’ve seen in Arizona is a concern that every ballot, every county be treated equally in how they deal with elections and signatures. And I believe we’ve come to an agreement in Arizona where however they’re treating a ballot in Maricopa of signature verification or otherwise is going to be the same way they’re treating in Yuma or wherever else in Arizona. And that’s important. Look, you can’t have two different standards on determining what is a valid or legal vote. You can’t do that. Because that’s not fair. So I think we’re on the right track in Arizona. We need to make sure that we do this. But there is no way, there is no way that an election official in Arizona should be allowed to treat their votes differently, more specially than any other area of the state.
CHUCK TODD:There was a, a staffer of yours at the NRSC who was quoted as saying that an official in Maricopa County was, quote, unquote, “trying to cook the books.” It inspired this tweet from Mark Salter, the long-time chief of staff for the late Arizona Senator John McCain, nd he tweets this: “Stop doing this, NRSC. McSally is losing fair and square and she’s underperforming in more than Maricopa. The race is almost certainly lost and nothing will change that. All this does is poison our politics more. Despicable.” What do you say to Mr. Salter?
SEN. CORY GARDNER:Well, I think we do have a chance to win in Florida, in Arizona. I do think there is a path. We’ve seen it in the numbers. But I do think it’s important that we protect the people of Arizona. We can’t sit by and allow votes to be counted in Maricopa that would not be counted somewhere —
CHUCK TODD:I understand that.
SEN. CORY GARDNER:— else.
CHUCK TODD:But did you approve of–
SEN. CORY GARDNER:That’s not fair.
CHUCK TODD:— did you approve of your staffer saying things like cook the books? I mean it does, by throwing that language in there, as you know, it automatically polarizes the two sides. This minute language like that gets used.
SEN. CORY GARDNER:Look, there’s a lot of releases that are going to go out that I don’t see or — and I’m not familiar with this one. But what I do think is important and it’s not the first time that somebody’s been accused of cooking the books or rigging the outcome of an election. I think that’s the last two years have been about by Democrats trying to go after President Trump on that as well. So what I think we have to do and what we’ve proven in the court in Arizona, or excuse me the agreements that we’ve come to in Arizona, is a way to treat voters equally across the state. We – look, this is about making sure that the votes are counted and the votes are counted fairly. And that’s what I think we’re getting to in Arizona finally.
CHUCK TODD:Finally, last question, very quickly. The Mueller probe. Jeff Flake and Chris Coons said when they come back for the lame duck he’s going to ask for unanimous consent to get this bill voted on. Do you think it’s necessary? Do you think Mueller needs protection? Mitch McConnell does not. What say you, Cory Gardner?
SEN. CORY GARDNER:Well, I support the Mueller investigation. I know I’ve heard Senator McConnell say he supports the Mueller investigation. It’s important for the American people. It’s important that we have this for transparency. And I think it’s important for the president to have this information out there fully, transparently, and accurately. The president has said he wants to keep this investigation moving forward and I believe that’s the way–
CHUCK TODD:Does it need protection legislatively, though? Do you need to do that in the Senate?
SEN. CORY GARDNER:This election, this, Mueller is not going to be stopped. It’s going to continue and it should continue.
CHUCK TODD:All right, but you didn’t say whether it was necessary in the Senate.
SEN. CORY GARDNER:Well, I think it’s going to continue. If it continues —
CHUCK TODD:You don’t need–
SEN. CORY GARDNER:— why protect something that’s actually continuing?
CHUCK TODD:Okay, I will leave it there. Senator Cory Gardner, Republican–
SEN. CORY GARDNER:Thank you.
CHUCK TODD:— from Colorado, thanks for coming on, sharing your views.
SEN. CORY GARDNER:Thanks for having me. Thanks.