Sen. Ben Sasse said Thursday that special counsel Robert Mueller must be allowed to complete his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

That should be "a prerequisite" to Senate confirmation of President Donald Trump's nominee to succeed Jeff Sessions as attorney general, Sasse said in a written statement released in Washington.

The president's nominee "must commit to allowing Robert Mueller to finish his investigation into Russian information attacks against America," Sasse declared. 

Later, following his speech to an unusually large crowd at a Lincoln Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Sasse said any action by acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker to attempt to shut down the investigation "would be an extraordinarily bad action."

"I'm not going to speculate about a terrible move like that," Sasse said in answer to a question following his appearance.

The Senate Republican colleagues with whom he has recently spoken about the matter "understand the importance of the investigation," the senator said.

Sasse praised Sessions, who submitted his resignation at the request of the president, for having "the integrity to uphold our Constitution and defend the rule of law."

The senator's appearance at the noon event at the Country Club of Lincoln attracted about 200 people, a crowd much larger than most of the chamber's luncheon events. 

Sasse is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will consider Trump's attorney general nominee.

During his luncheon remarks, Sasse said he changed Senate committee assignments to gain a seat on Judiciary in order to help move Trump's judicial nominees to the floor of the Senate for action.

"The judges have been extraordinary," he said. "And the confirmation pace will continue."

Sasse said the results of this week's elections across the country appear to mean the Senate Republican caucus "got Trumpier" and the Democratic caucus "got a lot more socialistic."

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"It does not look like a lot of compromise," he said.

What he described as "a pretty massive realignment of American politics" appears to be mostly unhealthy and is dividing Americans, Sasse said.

The result is "political tribalism," he said. "People don't feel like there's a 'we.'"

In answer to questions posed by a moderator, Sasse said he wants "a permanent ban on officeholders becoming lobbyists" in Washington and would like to see a government in which "Congress has less power and mayors have more power."

Sasse said there needs to be a U.S. response to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul by Saudi agents.

"They're lying," he said in weighing the official response from government spokesmen in Saudi Arabia.

But, Sasse said, the United States needs to keep its eye focused on Iran, which he described as "the worst actor" in the Mideast and "a sponsor of state terrorism."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSDon.


Political reporter

Don Walton, a Husker and Yankee fan, is a longtime Journal Star political and government reporter.

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