FAIRBANKS - Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said this week that the Russia investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller III should be allowed to proceed to its natural end and that she would support legislation approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee to protect the inquiry.
Murkowski, in a wide-ranging interview with the Daily News-Miner editorial board Wednesday, also praised the FBI and said the agency has a "a serious and significant role" in the investigation.
"I have said all along that Mueller should be allowed to take this investigation wherever it takes him and his team," she said. "And I said that at the beginning and I repeat that, because I believe very, very firmly in that. And I think any efforts to thwart that are dangerous.
"If the investigation takes them to an additional turn that needs to be followed, I think this is what we're asking for when we ask for an independent investigation," she said. "That means that the president can't meddle. That means that the attorney general can't meddle. That means that the United States Senate can't meddle, and I just firmly believe that they should be able to take it where it goes."
Murkowski added, however, that she doesn't want to see the investigation go on indefinitely — "You know, this is going to be years and years and years" — and that the probe eventually must reach its natural end.
"And I think you have people of goodwill and good faith that are working to do just that," she said.
"I do not subscribe that this is some kind of a witch hunt," she said, referring to President Donald Trump's oft-repeated criticism of the special counsel inquiry into alleged Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election and that now appears to have spread to other matters involving Trump and his associates.
Reports regularly surface that Trump is highly frustrated by the investigation and that some of his supporters are urging Mueller's firing.
The Senate Judiciary Committee last week, in a bipartisan vote, approved a bill that would provide for judicial review of a president's firing of a special counsel. The counsel would have, under the proposal, 10 days to seek an expedited review of his or her firing. The bill also would require the attorney general to report to Congress if a special counsel is fired or appointed and to provide Congress with details if the scope of the investigation changes.
Murkowski said she is inclined to support the bill if it reaches the Senate floor.
"I have had good discussion with colleagues about this legislation," Murkowski said. "So I have said that I would consider supporting it, and based on what passed out of committee, if it comes to the floor, unless something changes I'm prepared to support it."
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said, however, that he will not allow the bill to proceed, citing constitutional concerns about encroaching on executive branch authority.
Murkowski also defended the FBI's work on the Russia investigation. The agency has been a frequent target of Trump, who only last week in a Fox News interview said, "And you look at the corruption at the top of the FBI, it's a disgrace. And our Justice Department, which I try and stay away from, but at some point, I won't."
Rudy Giuliani, the latest addition to Trump's fluctuating legal team, in a Wednesday interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity referred to FBI agents who raided the office of Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen as "stormtroopers coming in and breaking down his apartment and breaking down his office."
Murkowski said spirits at the FBI are low.
"I think the morale in the agency is pretty low right now because they have, as an agency been kind of singled out in a way that I don't think reflects the good honest efforts of these people to do their job," she said.
"I'm worried about the morale of the agency and their ability to do their job and to do their job independent, as I think most of us believe that they should be acting, and not being influenced by the politics of the moment or the administration," she said, adding a short while later, "But I do think that the FBI has a serious and significant role in the investigation of what went on with Russia and their meddling or their interference in this past election and other elections."
Contact News-Miner Editor Rod Boyce at 459-7585. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMeditor.