Cotton on Senate bills to protect Mueller: "I don't see them going very far"

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, said Sunday he does not see two bills that seek to stop President Trump from firing special counsel Robert Mueller "going very far."

"Congress is a co-equal branch of government. And in my opinion, for decades, Congress has ceded too much authority to the executive branch," Cotton said on CBS News' "Face the Nation." "And we should exercise our constitutional responsibilities seriously and with vigor."  

"The independent counsel statute in the 1970s and '80s and '90s was a disaster," he said. "We have an executive branch in which the power of all the departments and all the agencies reports to the single elected member of the president."

Cotton's comments come amid a clear sign that Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election is ramping up: Mueller is using a grand jury in Washington, D.C., as part of the probe.

The investigation now includes Russian interference in the election, hacking by Russian operatives, influence campaigns and possible financial wrongdoing, according to individuals familiar with the matter.

It is unclear whether Mueller has empaneled a new grand jury or is using an existing one. A grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, was previously used in the FBI's investigation into Flynn's activities. That probe has been taken over by Mueller's team.  

When asked Sunday about Russia's continuing influence on the United States, particularly after reports of Mr. Trump's national security adviser being targeted by pro-Russian efforts to undermine his White House role, Cotton said, "it should come as no surprise that Russia continues its effort to manipulate Western democracies in a way to sow discord and disagreements" within the U.S.

Cotton noted that there are steps the administration should be taking to safeguard against Russian influence, including providing defensive weaponry to Ukraine. 

"I encourage the president and the administration to take a look at those steps. I know they are doing so through deliberate, careful National Security Council meetings," Cotton added.