(CNSNews.com) - In a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the ranking member of the intelligence committee, warned President Trump not to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller or pardon anyone charged with crimes as a result of Mueller's investigation.
On Sunday, President Trump told reporters he is not going to fire Mueller, but that hasn't calmed nervous Democrats, including Warner, who are counting on Mueller's Russia investigation to produce a good reason for casting doubt on the 2016 election results.
"Mr. President, I rise today, concerned about the threats to the special counsel's critical investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election," Warner said.
He complained that "a growing chorus of irresponsible and reckless voices" are calling for Trump to fire Mueller, given concerns about apparent conflicts of interest among members of Mueller's team.
"In recent weeks, those voices seem to be growing in stridency and volume," Warner said. "Just this weekend, one major news organization suggested that Special Counsel Mueller could be involved in a coup against the president. One has outrageously alleged that the fix was in against Donald Trump from the beginning. Those statements are reckless. They are inappropriate. And they are extremely worrying,” Warner said.
The seemingly coordinated nature of these claims should alarm us all, particularly since in recent days these baseless accusations have been repeated by several members of the House of Representatives.
I believe that it is up to every member of this institution, Republican or Democrat, to make a clear and unambiguous statement that any attempt by this president to remove Special Counsel Robert Mueller from his position or to pardon key witnesses in any effort to shield them from accountability or shut down the investigation would be a gross abuse of power and a flagrant violation of executive branch responsibilities and authorities."
These truly are red lines and we simply cannot allow them to be crossed.
Warner said it is "critical" that Mueller be permitted to finish the job "without obstruction."
He spent part of his speech recalling the "dangerous days" when President Trump fired then-FBI Director Jim Comey, an event that was "met with confusion and widespread condemnation."
On the other hand, Mueller's appointment "reassured Americans that there will be a full and thorough law enforcement investigation."
Warner also addressed recent revelations that an FBI agent assigned to Mueller's team held anti-Trump, pro-Clinton biases: "This specious line of argument conveniently ignores the fact that as soon as Mr. Mueller learned about these (anti-Trump) comments, he immediately removed that agent in question from the investigation."
Warner said the Senate intelligence committee's Russia investigation has "made tremendous progress," including the discovery of "numerous and troubling high-level engagements between the Trump campaign and Russian affiliates." (Trump's son Donald Jr. is the focus of those "engagements.")
"We've got a lot of work to do yet," Warner said, "and I'm committed to seeing the effort through." He said the Senate investigation is not a substitute for Mueller's inquiry, because it's up to the FBI to determine whether criminal charges are warranted.
Warner accused President Trump of doing much to discredit the investigation into Russian meddling.
And although Trump has said he is not considering removing Mueller, “the president’s track record on this front is a source of concern,” Warner said.
“Firing Mr. Mueller or any other of the top brass involved in this investigation would not only call into question this administration’s commitment to the truth but also to our most basic concept of the rule of law. It also has the potential to provoke a constitutional crisis."
Warner noted that no one, including the president, is above the law.
“Congress must make clear to the president that firing the special counsel or interfering with his investigation by issuing pardons of essential witnesses is unacceptable and would have immediate and significant consequences.
"I hope my concerns are unfounded…but there are troubling signs. It is critical that all of us as elected officials and as citizens speak up against these threats now, before it’s too late."