Politics

Democrats hope to quash concerns about Mueller's Russia probe affecting the midterms

Key Points
  • Sen. Chris Coons says special counsel Robert Mueller should not make "major" announcements related to the Russia investigation ahead of the midterm elections.
  • President Donald Trump has accused Mueller's team of trying to influence the critical November elections.
  • Trump's personal legal team is also pushing for an end to the investigation by September, well before the midterms.
Former FBI Director Robert Mueller at the US Capitol in Washington, DC on June 21, 2017.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

Bipartisan lawmakers have sounded the alarm about Russian efforts to meddle in American elections for the last year and a half.

Now, Democrats hope to quash Republican fears about potential election influence by another source: special counsel Robert Mueller, the man leading the probe into Russian involvement in the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump contended the people working on the "rigged Russia Witch Hunt" will "be meddling with the mid-term elections," especially because Republicans have narrowed the Democratic lead in the generic congressional election ballot.

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The president referred to Muller's team as "13 angry Democrats," although Mueller himself is a Republican and was appointed by Trump's own deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, who is also a Republican.

Trump has repeatedly argued politics motivated the Russia investigation, claiming Democrats want to make up for a loss in the 2016 presidential election. Now, he appears poised to peg potential Republican troubles in November's midterms to the Russia probe.

Some Democrats, with their party trying to either take control of Congress or narrow Republican majorities this year, aim to quell accusations of influence on the midterms. On Wednesday, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said it is "important" that the special counsel "avoid any major announcements" ahead of the midterms to avoid affecting races.

"And I fully expect him to follow that practice," Coons told CNN on Wednesday.

Senate Appropriations Committee's Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee ranking member Sen. Chris Coons.
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, also suggested Wednesday that the investigation could weigh politically if it drags on for too long. Speaking at Recode's Code Conference, the senator said he thinks Americans will grow "tired" of the probe if it is not "wound down this calendar year."

Of course, that timeline would not necessarily mean the investigation would end before the midterms. The intelligence panel Warner sits on is conducting a separate counterintelligence investigation into Russian influence efforts.

The special counsel's office declined to comment for this article.

Representatives for the top Senate and House Democrats, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, respectively, did not immediately respond to requests about whether the leaders agree with Coons' view.

Trump's personal legal team has partly cited the midterms as it pushes for a swift conclusion to the Mueller investigation. Rudy Giuliani, one of the president's lawyers in the Russia probe, told CNBC on Wednesday that he would want a potential Trump interview with Mueller's team to take place "well before midterms so they can wrap up [the] case in September."

Trump's fixation on the investigation has helped to keep it in the public eye. He tweeted frequently in recent days about the Russia investigation and unfounded accusations that the Obama administration planted a spy within his campaign.

"Why didn't President Obama do something about the so-called Russian Meddling when he was told about it by the FBI before the election?" he asked in one tweet Sunday.

Republicans have tried to focus their messaging on a strong economy and their law cutting tax rates for corporations and most individuals ahead of the midterms. On Tuesday, Trump appeared to acknowledge that he should spend more time talking about policy rather than the Russia investigation.

"Sorry, I've got to start focusing my energy on North Korea Nuclear, bad Trade Deals, VA Choice, the Economy, rebuilding the Military, and so much more, and not on the Rigged Russia Witch Hunt that should be investigating Clinton/Russia/FBI/Justice/Obama/Comey/Lynch etc.," he wrote on Twitter.

— CNBC's Brian Schwartz contributed to this report