Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., center, speaks after the Republican policy luncheon on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018 in Washington. He is accompanied by, from left, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., Sen John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. 

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner in an interview Thursday maintained his support for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, but stopped short of supporting legislation that would protect the probe.

Senate Republicans blocked the bill last week, saying it was unconstitutional. But sponsors, including Sens. Cory Booker, a Democrat, and retiring Republican Jeff Flake, say it’s necessary to prevent President Donald Trump from firing Mueller.

Gardner said such a move would be like Trump “touching the sun.”

“The president has not done this, he will not do this, and he should not do this,” Gardner told Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner.

But Gardner accused the bill’s backers of “playing politics.” The Senate’s vocal support for Mueller sends an important signal to the White House, Gardner maintained.

“That transcends any legislation. I haven't heard of any senator yet who's opposed to the Mueller investigation. This is critically important that the investigation be completed. It needs to completed. I've said that many times and will continue to support the investigation,” Colorado’s junior senator said.

Interview Highlights:

Sen. Gardner on whether a planned second Trump-North Korea summit is a good idea:

"I remain skeptical of a second summit that is just a meeting to rehash old promises that haven't been fulfilled. And I think that's where we have to provide oversight and make sure that this isn't just a chance to play patty cake in meeting with the North Koreans."

On whether the White House is naïve regarding North Korea:

"I don't think they are naïve. But there's an old saying that a frog sometimes doesn't notice it's boiling when it's already in the pot. So are they noticing the boil around them while North Korea is slipping back into their old, 'We're just going to say enough to get you to go along with us.' And then pretty soon they find themselves boiling, meaning North Korea is back to its old ways. So I think there's a real risk and concern that I have in that respect."

On whether he supports a bill to end U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led Yemen war, as a rebuke to Saudi Arabia’s apparent killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi:

"What we can't do is weaken our efforts against terrorism. Al-Qaeda, ISIS, the Iranian-back Houthis, and others, who wish to destabilize not only the Middle East but the United States. We cannot confuse the actions [Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman] took with actions that would embolden terrorists. And I think that's a very, very big concern and should be a concern of every single one of my colleagues. …

"The secretary of state was concerned that any such action could take away ... from the negotiations with the Houthis. You know what? We need to have those negotiations continue. And if the United States were to do something that would embolden the Iranian-backed Houthis, they might walk away from the table and the conflict in Yemen would continue. But let's be clear: there are some who would enable, through their actions, politics that would result in an empowered ISIS, Al-Qaeda and Iran."

On his new bill that would allow businesses to pay employees’ student loans, tax-free:

"This is a private sector solution. Businesses are already making contributions to, in some cases, to employees to help them pay off their student loans. Well, let's just get Washington out of the way then.”

On whether Colorado Republicans’ electoral defeats in 2018 will change his governing style:

"What I'm going to approach the next several years with, as we get ready for whatever comes next, [is] making sure that I'm looking out for the results of the Colorado people, the American people. Doing everything we can to engage this country in success. Whether it's Barack Obama, George Bush or Donald Trump, our president needs to be successful for this country to be successful. And I think that's a bipartisan concern."