SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Mike Lee says he believes President Donald Trump is "fully cooperating" in the investigation into whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
Appearing Sunday on Fox News, the Utah Republican also talked about contradictory White House statements over why the president fired James Comey as director of the FBI last week.
Trump called stories of collusion between him and Russia a "taxpayer funded charade" and a "total hoax" in a series of tweets last week.
"As far as I’m aware, he’s fully cooperating and he’s willing and eager to see this investigation follow itself all the way through to wherever the facts may lead," said Lee, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"(Trump) sounds confident that it’s not going to lead anywhere that would be incriminating toward the campaign or toward himself," he said. "But I don’t think that’s inconsistent with allowing the investigation to do what it’s there to do."
Interviewer Chris Wallace pressed Lee about his answer, asking if he believes the president even after Trump "prejudged" the investigation as a charade and a hoax.
"That might not be the best approach to take at any given moment, but again it reflects the way he feels about the investigation," Lee said.
The senator also noted that FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe said under oath that there has been no effort to impede the investigation.
"I take him at his word," Lee said. "I think that indicates this investigation is moving forward."
On the firing of Comey, Lee said it's "entirely possible" that Trump had the inclination before the Department of Justice recommendation.
Vice President Mike Pence said the White House accepted the recommendation of the deputy attorney general to let Comey go. Trump said he planned to fire Comey and it was his decision.
The DOJ recommendation may have given Trump added confidence to remove the FBI director, Lee said.
The Utah senator also touted his suggestion to replace Comey with Merrick Garland, the Obama administration nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court who never got a hearing in the Senate.
Lee said he's "absolutely serious" about Garland because his strong law enforcement background would bring credibility to the job and he could get bipartisan support in the Senate.