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We Need Finality, Rep. Fitzpatrick Says, Then Move On From Mueller Probe

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

We still do not know the details of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, though President Trump and his allies are already hinting at further investigation. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who chairs the judiciary committee, said he wants a new special counsel to investigate whether the Obama administration tried to stop President Trump from being elected. This partisan back-and-forth comes as we get closer to the 2020 election, an election that Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said is already under threat. He told Congress recently that Russia and China are already trying to interfere in 2020.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DAN COATS: We assess that foreign actors will view the 2020 U.S. elections as an opportunity to advance their interests.

GREENE: Now, the Department of Homeland Security says 21 states were targeted by Russia last time. One of them was Pennsylvania. And Republican Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania joins us this morning.

Congressman, good morning.

BRIAN FITZPATRICK: Good morning, David.

GREENE: So is opening a whole new investigation into whether people were trying to stop President Trump from being elected a good idea right now?

FITZPATRICK: You know what? I've - I've told everybody, David. And - and you know, Bob Mueller was my boss. I worked with him for many years in the FBI - fully support his investigation, took 22 months. They had 40 of my former colleagues on that case. They've rounded it out. But I do believe that what we need is truth, transparency but also finality. And I think that any of my colleagues on either side of the aisle who want to advance any partisan investigations going forward after 22 months of criminal investigations, that's not a - an advisable move.

GREENE: OK. So you would disagree with Senator Graham and want finality and not a whole new special counsel to start looking back...

FITZPATRICK: Well...

GREENE: ...At 2016.

FITZPATRICK: This is what I will - well, you're hearing that from - from my colleague Mr. Nadler on the other side, as well, regarding perpetuating this criminal case that was just wrapped up by Bob Mueller. I think that on both sides...

GREENE: You're talking about Democrats who want to continue looking at whether there might have been obstruction of justice by the president as - you know, which was a question that Mueller left open. You're saying both sides should come to finality.

FITZPATRICK: Correct. I mean, Congress has an oversight role to play, without a doubt. And they should round out the - the - the edges of this - this report once we get it. We don't know when we're going to get it. They're - you know, they're trying to go through the 6(c) and national security analysis to scrub it. But once that's done, if they want to call Mr. Mueller - Mr. Barr to the Hill, I think that's - that's the - the OK thing to do as far as circulating out this - this report. But after that, we need to move on. We can't have perpetual political-based investigations going forward.

GREENE: Because I wonder if we're already at a point or if we could get to a point soon where investigations, I mean, really risk politicizing the whole issue of election security, the whole issue of Russian interference and how dangerous that could be if our entire election system is sort of wrapped up in politics.

FITZPATRICK: There's no doubt about it. And that's why I think it was good that - that Bob Mueller, you know, engaged in this investigation. He indicted several people with regard to the Russian scheme, which was twofold, as you know. One was a propaganda social media campaign, and the second was a hacking scheme. It's good that we know that that happened. It's good that we know who engaged in it and that we're going to bring them to justice. And we can also take remedial action here in Congress to prevent that from happening again. But what we cannot do is just perpetuate ongoing investigations based purely on political motives on - on very, very important topics like this.

GREENE: Are you willing, within your party, to make that message clear - I mean, to people like Senator Graham, to the White House - to send this message that you're concerned about the sanctity of our election process and you think that partisanship could be really damaging?

FITZPATRICK: There's no doubt. I have, and I will continue to do that. And to be clear - I mean, I think that the Mueller report should be made public. We should have brief hearings on it just to round out the investigation, to answer any unanswered questions, which go both to the genesis of the case, which Mr. Graham wants to look at, and the obstruction issue, which Mr. Nadler wants to look at. But it can't just go on endlessly. We need to wrap this up. We need truth. We need transparency. But we also need finality. And any of my colleagues who are not advocating for all three, I would suggest, are not doing their job.

GREENE: Brian Fitzpatrick, Republican congressman from the state of Pennsylvania.

Congressman, thanks so much.

FITZPATRICK: Thank you, sir.

GREENE: I want to bring in NPR lead political editor Domenico Montanaro who's been listening in.

Hi, Domenico.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey there, David.

GREENE: You know, in a time of intense partisanship, that sounded like a very measured message. How common do you think that is in Congress right now?

MONTANARO: Well, you know, he's from a district that is a fairly moderate district. So you know, I think what you're hearing from him - if he's, you know, representing the people of his district, there's a degree of fatigue with - in the middle with partisan investigations. And it's a delicate line for Democrats to walk because transparency is on their side. I mean, when you not only listen to Fitzpatrick talk about needing truth, transparency but also finality, meaning there should be some kind of end to it - when you look at polling - you look at our polling, for example, the PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist polling that we've done, people support releasing the full report. Three-quarters of people said so, including 68 percent of Republicans.

You know, being able to take that turn now and having Lindsey Graham and the president say that they want to look into some kind of measures that might enact some kind of revenge on Democrats or, in their words, look at accountability, that may be going a step further. In fact, most Democrats would say you haven't really had much transparency so far. And you know, you've only had a four-page summary of what the findings are. There are a lot of people, including Democrats - including Republicans and independents, who want to see some more.

GREENE: But I just wonder - I mean, President Trump clearly feels like his base wants him to go after the media, wants him to go after people he views as his enemies. The Democratic Party's base wants to continue, I mean, talking about what they see as a corrupt White House and a corrupt administration. I mean, is there any - is the Congressman we just heard from at all realistic?

MONTANARO: I think that there's a delicate balancing act that Democrats have to do, that Republicans have to do when it comes to not going too far with some of these things and also being able to remind people that they are still caring about kitchen table issues and things that are actually important in people's lives.

GREENE: NPR lead political editor Domenico Montanaro.

Domenico, thanks.

MONTANARO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.