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Sen. Ben Sasse says it would be "a grave mistake" and "a complete disaster" if President Donald Trump decides to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller in an effort to disrupt or end the ongoing investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

"If the president has nothing to fear, he should welcome an investigation" that attempts to determine all the facts and evidence surrounding the Russian incursion, Sasse said during a telephone interview from Washington.

"The American people want to get to the bottom of where the facts lead," Nebraska's Republican senator said.  

His conclusion from ongoing and lengthy study of U.S. intelligence that is available to him is that Russian cyber interference is designed to weaken the United States by attempting to "make us hate each other and distrust each other," Sasse said.

"What (Vladimir) Putin does is (identify) an American divide and then he tries to throw gasoline on that fight," Sasse said.

One example that emerged in U.S. intelligence monitoring was the sharp spike in the volume and intensity of internet traffic arguments after Trump attacked Colin Kaepernick's decision to kneel during the national anthem prior to NFL games, Sasse said.

There was clear evidence of substantial online Russian interference designed to fuel the flames of that dispute and escalate the argument, he said. 

Asked how he judges Trump and his presidency after 14 months, Sasse said he believes "the election of this president represents far more the effect than the cause of our disruption."

Voters made "the choice to elect a disrupter in order to send a big signal that DC isn't working," he said.

Some of the results of that decision may be good, Sasse said.

"The growth of the bureaucratic state really needed to be halted," he said.

But there are also "things that are happening that either are not well thought out or incomprehensive," he said.

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"Vladimir Putin is not a friend," Sasse said.  

"He is a despot. The president should not have done anything to imply that (Putin's re-election) was a free and fair election.

"It was not free and fair," Sasse said.

Either there is "not a sufficient policy process to understand" or the White House seems to want to "embrace a morally indifferent foreign policy," he added. 

"There are things about this White House that I am worried about," Sasse said.

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

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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Political reporter

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

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