Senate Committee Advances Bill To Protect Robert Mueller

Glen Norman
April 27, 2018

John Cornyn and Ted Cruz were among Republicans who opposed to a move Thursday to protect special counsel Robert Mueller from being fired.

The proposal now rests in the hands of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who will decide if and when the legislation receives a full vote on the Senate floor. Chris Coons, D-Del., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Graham and Tillis, and would codify Department of Justice regulations that say only a senior DOJ official can fire Mueller or another special counsel, according to The Hill.

"Because special counsel investigations only occur where there is a conflict of interest within the executive branch, special counsel investigations are usually matters of great national concern", Grassley said.

Mueller is investigating allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and damage his Democrat opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Although the bill doesn't expressly bar the president from firing the special counsel, "There's a robust debate among legal scholars across the political spectrum as to whether the bill nevertheless goes too far", the Atlantic reports. If dismissed, a special counsel could file for judicial review within 10 days of his or her firing. Even if it were passed by the Senate, the bill would then need to pass the House, where several key Republicans have been vocal critics of Mueller's probe, and Trump would need to sign it.

"I think we're right to convey a strong message to the president not to fire Robert Mueller", Hatch said Thursday. "It's about the rule of law", Graham said Thursday. The president tweeted his outrage after the raid, causing lawmakers from both parties to warn against the firing of the special counsel. A previous version of that amendment almost derailed committee passage of the bill, but Grassley was able to come to a compromise with Democrats to win their support.

Although legal experts say only Rosenstein can fire Mueller, because the Trump administration has publicly disagreed, a bipartisan team of senators responded by introducing the bill that advanced Thursday. Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch, that would have essentially gutted the bill and replaced it with a symbolic show of support for Mueller's work.

The legislation has divided Republicans, pitting a handful of senators who believe in protecting Mueller against others who have leveled a variety of objections to the bill - including questions about its constitutionality and whether it is necessary.

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