Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday morning that special counsel Robert Mueller should end his probe into allegations of collusion between President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and the Russian government “in the interest of the country.”
But despite prodding from the vice president and others in Trump’s orbit, Mueller’s probe, approaching its one-year anniversary, has shown no outward signs of winding down amid significant public speculation on whether the president will sit for an interview with the special counsel’s team.
“You know, our administration has been fully cooperating with the special counsel and we’ll continue to. What I think is that it's been about a year since this investigation began,” the vice president told NBC News’s Andrea Mitchell. “We've fully cooperated in it and in the interest of the country, I think it's time to wrap it up. And I would very respectfully encourage the special counsel and his team to bring their work to completion.”
A special counsel spokesman declined to comment.
Pence sat for his interview at Andrews Air Force Base, where he and the president welcomed home three Americans who had been held prisoner in North Korea and were released on Wednesday. The administration has sought to highlight the foreign policy success of its talks with North Korea amid international criticism of Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal and mounting legal issues at home for the president stemming from Mueller’s probe and lawsuits brought by porn actress Stormy Daniels, who claims to have had a one-night affair with Trump in 2006.
Trump has complained loudly and often that Mueller’s investigation amounts to a “witch hunt” cooked up by deep-state officials at the Justice Department to sabotage his presidency. Allegations of collusion, he has said often, are the invention of Democrats grasping for an excuse for Hillary Clinton’s loss in the 2016 election, a race she was widely expected to win handily.
But despite the president’s claim that Mueller’s investigation is a political witch hunt, the probe has already born fruit in the form of indictments against multiple former Trump campaign officials, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and 13 Russian nationals involved in the Kremlin’s efforts to meddle in the 2016 election.
Mueller is approaching his one-year anniversary on next Thursday, a mile marker that Trump and his lawyers have been trying to highlight as part of their argument the case has gone on too long. Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani in an interview earlier this week said the special counsel was aware of his investigation’s pacing.
“I think he’s getting sensitive to the fact they’ve gone on a little bit too long,” Giuliani told Politico on Monday. “He’s certainly getting a certain degree of questioning about that. I’m not so concerned about that as l am about let’s see some kind of road to a close.”
Mueller faces no deadline to complete his probe, though he had a status report updating his progress that he must submit to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in early July. A spokesman for the special counsel did not immediately respond to comment about the vice president’s remarks to NBC.
Darren Samuelsohn and Josh Gerstein contributed to this report.