WASHINGTON — Republicans on Tuesday rallied behind President Trump’s effort to quash lingering questions raised by special counsel Robert Mueller III’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., declared “case closed,” insisting that Democrats should accept Mueller’s findings and end their investigations. Almost simultaneously Tuesday morning, the White House invoked executive privilege to block former counsel Donald McGahn from complying with a congressional subpoena for documents.

McConnell’s comments represent a new front in the GOP resistance campaign, bolstering a weeks-long effort by the Trump administration to stonewall multiple oversight demands from House Democrats ahead of the 2020 election. Attorney General William Barr released a redacted, 448-page version of the Mueller report April 18, and Republicans say it is time to move on.

“For two years, the Democratic Party held out hope that the legal system would undo their loss in 2016. They refused to make peace with the American people’s choice. But the American people elected this president,” McConnell said in a speech on the Senate floor, echoing Trump’s blasts at critics who he says are questioning his legitimacy.

The political broadside stood in stark contrast to a legal assessment from more than 700 former prosecutors from Republican and Democratic administrations, who signed a letter asserting that Trump would have been charged with obstruction of justice based on Mueller’s findings were he not president.

Inside the Capitol, Republicans stood with Trump, as they have repeatedly since the start of his presidency. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who frequently talks about the Constitution, said he was not concerned about the precedent the White House was setting in ignoring congressional subpoenas. He said he was more worried about the Democratic effort to obtain Trump’s tax returns, likening it to a Pandora’s box that would create a “system where each party goes after the donors and the political parties and the candidates.”

“The biggest problem right now is the idea that we can destroy the whole concept of your taxes being private,” he said. “It’s an awful precedent. I think the Democrats ought to think twice before they open this door.”

GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Cory Gardner of Colorado, both seeking reelection next year in states Trump lost in 2016, declined to challenge McConnell’s view, with Gardner using Trump’s oft-repeated assessment.

“The report talks about no collusion, no cooperation, so what are you talking about?” Gardner said, referring to Democrats’ accusations of malfeasance. “Look, we have work to do to make sure Russia doesn’t continue to try to influence the elections. I think that’s a major concern that we have – I think that’s what I want to continue to focus on.”

Collins said Mueller’s testimony “would be helpful” to “get clarifications on some of the issues.” But key GOP lawmakers, including Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina, are not currently seeking his testimony.


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