South Carolina GOP congressmen are using TV to chastise Trump on Mueller. It might actually work.

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Trey Gowdy and Lindsey Graham might have the right strategy to influence Trump when it comes to the Mueller investigation.   

Two Republican members of Congress from South Carolina, Rep. Trey Gowdy and Sen. Lindsey Graham, are using President Donald Trump’s favorite medium — cable news — to argue for why Trump shouldn’t fire special counsel Robert Mueller. 

After the remarkable firing of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe just 26 hours before he would have qualified for his federal pension, not to mention Trump’s recent tweets attacking Robert Mueller and the president’s lawyer officially calling on the Justice Department to end the Mueller investigation, many suspect that Trump may end the investigation altogether. But in recent TV appearances, Gowdy and Graham have separately urged both Trump and his lawyer that doing this would be a terrible idea.  

Gowdy to Trump’s lawyer: “If you have an innocent client, Mr. Dowd, act like it”

U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, who made a name for himself during the numerous Benghazi hearings into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, told Chris Wallace of Fox News on Sunday that he is dismayed at the actions of the administration and of Trump’s lawyer, John Dowd.

“Frankly, I think the President’s attorney does him a disservice when he says that and he frames the investigation that way,” Gowdy said, directly addressing the president’s lawyer. “If you have an innocent client, Mr. Dowd, act like it.”

If Mueller is responsible for investigating Russia’s influence on the 2016 election, Gowdy argued, and if there was truly no evidence of coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign, then Trump should not try to end an investigation that he is supposedly not involved with.

Trump and Dowd should have good reason to pay attention to Gowdy. Gowdy, who is not running for reelection, is himself a former prosecutor and will likely return to the courtroom after he retires from Congress. He was also a member of the House Intelligence Committee that abruptly ended its investigation into Trump, saying it found no evidence of collusion with Russia.

So Gowdy agrees with Trump that “there is no collusion” — but disagrees with Trump on whether it’s wise to attack Mueller as a result of that belief, as Trump did Sunday morning on Twitter: 

“Russia attacked our country. Let Special Counsel Mueller figure that out,” Gowdy said. “If you believe, as we found, there is no evidence of collusion, you should want Special Counsel Mueller to take all the time and have all the independence he needs to do his job.”

Graham intentionally uses TV appearances to send a message to Trump

Also on Sunday, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham joined CNN’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper to say that he would protect the special counsel from any punitive action made by the Trump administration.

“The only reason that Mr. Mueller could be dismissed is for cause. I see no cause when it comes to Mr. Mueller,” Graham said. “I pledge to the American people, as a Republican, to make sure that Mr. Mueller can continue to do his job without any interference. I think he’s doing a good job.”

Tapper asked Graham if it appears that Trump may soon end the Mueller investigation.

“If he tried to do that, it would be the beginning of the end of his Presidency,” Graham said. “As I’ve said before.”

In fact, Graham has taken to television many times in order to get in the President’s ear, knowing he was watching. 

The Post and Courier spoke to Kevin Bishop, an official who works for Graham, and asked him if Graham makes certain television appearances in order to yield influence over Trump.

“He wouldn’t continue to do it if it wasn’t working,” he said. “It’s absolutely intentional.”

Some television appearances show Graham’s strategy plainly at work. In late December, he went on Face the Nation to talk about protests in Iran, asking for more than empty tweets about the event.

“Have you conveyed this personally to the president?” Major Garrett, the show’s host, asked him.

“I just did,” Graham retorted.

On Tuesday, Graham made an appearance on MSNBC with Hugh Hewitt and emphasized the necessity to protect Mueller and the acting attorney general Rod Rosenstein. For Graham, such an action would merit impeachment. The exchange was live-tweeted by a journalist at the Post and Courier Jamie Lovegrove.

Sources close the president have told The New York Times that Trump watches as much as eight hours of television per day. Although Trump denies claims that he watches much television, Bishop claims that Graham has received calls from the president either before or immediately after going on television.

“The president has seen him on TV and called him afterward,” Bishop said. “It’s a quick way to deliver a message. And when the senator has a message, he prefers to deliver it directly.”

David Woodard, who managed Graham’s previous congressional campaigns, told the Post and Courier that Graham might be better positioned than other Republicans to send a message in this way.

“He seems to have gained some credibility with Trump and it seems like they can talk,” Woodard said. “Think about that. He can’t do it with Ted Cruz. He can’t do it with Mitch McConnell. But Lindsey Graham seems to sort of be a friend-in-waiting with the president. And that’s a new role for Lindsey — and it may be a very important one.”