President Trump’s conservative allies are going on offense against special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, hoping to blunt any damning revelations that may emerge from the nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
A senior Justice Department official has told media outlets that Mueller will not recommend new indictments against Trump’s inner circle, which Trump’s defenders have seized on to argue that the investigation was the "witch hunt" that the president always claimed it to be.
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and a staunch Trump ally, took to Twitter immediately to argue that the lack of additional indictments would reveal the investigation was a waste of time and taxpayers' money.
"It would mean we just completed 2 years of investigating 'Russian collusion' without ONE collusion related indictment. Not even one. Why? Because there was no collusion," he tweeted.
Backing up Meadows’s claim that the probe was a waste of taxpayers’ dollars, House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) issued a statement Friday afternoon saying that he expects Congress to be fully briefed on the investigation’s cost.
During a follow-up appearance on Fox News, Scalise told host Sean Hannity that the lack of additional indictments "does vindicate President Trump" and "gives credence to those claims that this was a witch hunt."
"I’d like to see not only the report made public but how many tens of millions of taxpayer dollars were spent over nearly two years to meander around and, as you say, bully people," he said.
Scalise also demanded that Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, be held accountable for what he called the "smearing" of "good people," pointing to Schiff’s claim that there was more than circumstantial evidence of collusion with Russia.
Hannity claimed in his opening monologue that the Mueller investigation was biased from the start because its investigators included 13 registered Democrats, nine of whom made contributions to Democratic candidates over the years.
"Mueller hired zero, zip registered Republicans," Hannity said, though he didn’t note that Mueller himself is a longtime registered Republican.
Still, Hannity declared the lack of further indictments a major victory for Trump, attacking Democrats for predicting that more shoes would drop and hammering mainstream media outlets for their coverage of the investigation.
"If there’s no collusion, obstruction or conspiracy that was found, nothing else matters, no matter what these people that have been selling you lies for years tell you," he said.
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) said in a statement released Friday evening that "this investigation should never have happened" and argued that former FBI Director James Comey attempted to "manipulate ongoing investigations" by leaking memos that put pressure on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint Mueller as special counsel.
"This travesty of justice should never again occur to any American," he said.
Conservatives say the focus should now shift to the tactics of FBI agents they claim had an agenda against Trump and tried to derail his campaign by obtaining a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to conduct surveillance of its activities.
"There’s extraordinary malfeasance within the FBI that we’ve seen based on the evidence that’s come out over the last few years and even within the intelligence community," said Sara Carter, a visiting fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum and Fox News contributor, during an appearance on "Hannity."
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, delivering the keynote speech at the annual Lincoln Day Dinner at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla., Friday evening, called for an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and the alleged role it played in pushing the Steele dossier, which suggested collusion between Trump’s campaign and the Russian government.
Kevin Liptak, a reporter for CNN, tweeted that a "lock her up" chant broke out in the ballroom as Graham spoke.
Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.), the top-ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, slammed the Mueller investigation as an outgrowth of a political operation by allies of Clinton and former President Obama who worked with "dirty cops" at the FBI.
"People need to remember that this likely dates back to late 2015, early 2016. This was began — nothing more, nothing less — [as] a Clinton-Obama operation with a bunch of dirty cops at the FBI and career Justice Department officials that were all part of it," he told Fox News's Laura Ingraham on Friday.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Friday said the allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian agents were "always ludicrous."
"We have lived through three separate investigations into Russia collusion, not just Mueller but a committee in the House and a committee in the Senate, and they spent years looking at this. In the end they found nothing,” he said.
Carlson also called for the resignations of House Democrats who have predicted Mueller would find evidence of collusion, including Schiff and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.).
"This has been a disaster. How can we let the people who are responsible for it continue as if it never happened? How can Eric Swalwell and Adam Schiff keep their seats in the House of Representatives?"
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a member of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) leadership team, stopped short of criticizing Mueller or his probe directly but tried to get out ahead of Democrats who may use Mueller’s report to call for further investigations of Trump.
"Mueller role was to conduct a criminal investigation, what will now follow is mainly political harassment leading to, perhaps, a futile impeachment exercise," he tweeted late Friday.