New calls for Congress to protect Mueller may not result in action
Washington – President Donald Trump’s twitter attacks on special counsel Robert Mueller is expected to renew debate on bills aimed at protecting Mueller that have lain dormant for months.
After Mueller was appointed nearly a year ago to head the investigation into possible ties between the Trump administration and Russia, senators, including Richard Blumenthal, introduced two bipartisan bills last year aimed at protecting a special counsel from political pressure from the White House
The “Special Counsel Integrity Act,” introduced by Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, would allow a special counsel to be fired only for “misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or other good cause, including violation of Justice Department policies.
The “Special Counsel Independence Protection Act,” introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Cory Booker, D-N.J.; and Blumenthal would require a federal judge to first sign off on any action to discipline or fire a special counsel.
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing in September on the two bills, but the legislation has not moved since then. Similar legislation introduced in the U.S. House is also stalled.
When the Senate returns on Tuesday, a push to move the bills out of committee onto the Senate floor is expected.
After Trump attorney John Dowd called for the end of the special counsel’s probe on Saturday, Blumenthal tweeted, “Trump’s lawyer threatening Special Counsel with shutdown demands immediate response: Congress must pass pending bipartisan legislation to protect Mueller against political interference.”
The evening before, the Justice Department announced the firing of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
To Blumenthal the firing was “more obstruction unfolding before our eyes.”
Trump attacked McCabe, and Mueller’s investigation in a series of tweets, including one sent Saturday night that said, “The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime.”
The following morning Trump tweeted, “Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans? Another Dem recently added…does anyone think this is fair? And yet, there is NO COLLUSION!”
Several Republicans warned Trump to resist firing Mueller, who is a Republican.
“If he tried to do that, that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency,” Graham said on CNN. Graham has also called for a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on McCabe’s firing.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz, who was also on the show said, “I mean, talking to my colleagues all along it was, you know, once he goes after Mueller, then we’ll take action,” he said.
On Monday, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., tweeted, “Special Counsel Mueller has served our country with honesty and integrity. It’s critical he be allowed to complete a thorough investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election — unimpeded.”
But it’s unclear whether Congress will take action to protect Mueller.
Lawmakers face a must-pass spending bill this week, and take action on sex trafficking and war authorization legislation before they break on Friday for a two-week recess.
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