Vice President Mike Pence urged special counsel Robert Mueller on Thursday to end his investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election.
The vice president’s comments to NBC News are his most direct yet in pressuring the special counsel to drop the investigation, which President Donald Trump has frequently referred to as a “witch hunt.”
“Our administration has provided more than a million documents; we’ve fully cooperated in it, and in the interest of the country, I think it’s time to wrap it up,” Pence said in an interview.
Sens. Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham responded to Pence’s remarks, both defending Mueller’s process.
“That’s not Vice President Mike Pence’s decision to make,” Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said. “I’m sure Mr. Mueller will wrap it up when it gets time to wrap it up. The only thing I can say is I haven’t seen any evidence of collusion. Mr. Mueller has a good reputation, and we’ll see what his report says and where he goes.”
Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, said he agreed Mueller’s investigation “should be wrapped up soon,” but he added that “nobody is going to tell Mueller what to do.”
“My position has always been be patient, and it’ll play out,” he said. “And more importantly for the President, vice president, including me: So far there’s no evidence of collusion, it’s going in a direction that’s going to exonerate the President, so why interfere?”
Pence maintained, like Trump, that the administration is fully cooperating with the investigation and will continue to do so.
“I would very respectfully encourage the special counsel and his team to bring their work to completion,” the vice president added.
Although the President has routinely taken to Twitter to trash the investigation, Pence has not been nearly as outspoken on the special counsel’s activities.
Pence has said he was not aware of the reported meetings that took place between members of the Trump campaign and Russians, a central focus of the Mueller investigation. The claim at times has proved to be a careful calibration of trying to stay away from the Russia probe even while maintaining his credibility for being left out of the loop by the West Wing.
In the NBC interview on Thursday, Pence also kept his distance when asked about Michael Cohen, calling the investigation into the President’s personal lawyer a “private matter,” adding that it’s something “that I don’t have any knowledge about. I think the White House issued a statement saying the same.”
CNN’s Sophie Tatum, Manu Raju and Dana Bash contributed to this report.