With Donald Trump now openly attacking Robert Mueller in a tweetstorm that began over the weekend, the fear is growing that the president will find a way to fire the Special Counsel as he gets closer to proving there was collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign and obstruction of justice by the President since then.
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To stop Trump from arbitrarily moving on Mueller, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) today filed a discharge petition that if signed by enough Congresspeople would force House Speaker Paul Ryan to allow a full House vote on a bill to protect the Special Counsel.
Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen has filed a discharge petition to force a floor vote on a bill to protect Robert Mueller. pic.twitter.com/bjnemb0Qx5
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) March 22, 2018
The Special Counsel Integrity Act – introduced this past December by Rep. Cohen and Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) – would create procedural protections for independent special prosecutors, making it virtually impossible to fire one without just cause.
Even if he was fired, the bill if passed would also allow the Special Counsel to seek a judicial review of the dismissal.
#snowday in DC, but can't let urgency of protecting the #MuellerInvestigation get buried beneath snowfall. Today I filed discharge petition to force vote on #HR4669,Special Counsel Integrity Act.Time for Congress to stand up for Americans.#Mueller #TrumpRussia @Lin_Manuel #resist pic.twitter.com/6BG0yzCS8M
— Steve Cohen (@RepCohen) March 21, 2018
While the bill would cover all Special Counsels now and in the future, Cohen has been direct in explaining why this bill is needed right now.
“It’s now very clear that Director Robert Mueller needs protection and should not be subject to inappropriate removal based on the whims of a hot-tempered President,” Cohen said in a statement today.
Cohen pointed out that this past Saturday a lawyer for Trump, John Dowd, asked for the investigation to be shut down; and that came only a day after Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, which he considers part of the Trump administration’s “war” on the Special Counsel’s investigation.
Cohen called the firing of McCabe, “a shot across the bow at other government officials who are trying to do their jobs – Justice Department officials, FBI officials and law enforcement officials who love this country and put their lives on the line.”
In his announcement today, Cohen expanded on his view:
“Recent events particularly concern me because it seems the President fears that Mueller is close to revealing findings relevant to his mandate and that ending the investigation is the only way to prevent its public release.”
“If the President has nothing to fear,” continued Cohen, “let the investigation continue. The President maintains there was no collusion or obstruction of justice. Let’s let Mueller finish his job and find out.”
“But as he does so,” added Cohen, “let’s make it clear he can’t be removed without the legal protections our bill provides.”
Cohen issued a call for bipartisan support for this legislation, but even with some Republicans already joining with the Democrats, that will be a difficult mountain to climb.
To see a billionaire President spike the ball on firing a 20year federal employee–denying #McCabe a hard-earned pension–is surreal. The House needs to vote on my #bipartisan #SpecialCounsel Protection Act #HR4669 to guard #Mueller from a similar, politically-motivated firing. pic.twitter.com/Z04Z4zxPyi
— Steve Cohen (@RepCohen) March 19, 2018
Politics in the nation’s capital and in Congress have not tended to be very bipartisan in recent times, with Republicans using their majority to force through numerous bills Democrats not only opposed but in many cases abhor.
So it is a longshot that it will get the support it needs in the House to come to a vote, or that if voted on it will pass, and if passed, that a companion bill can succeed Republican-controlled Senate, and if it gets that far, that the Hosue and Senate will be able to negotiate out a single bill, which then would have to be signed by Trump – perhaps the greatest longshot.
But it is worth the effort if only to bring attention to the purpose.
That could matter in the future if Trump does fire Mueller without cause because even leading Republicans have said dismissing Mueller could cause a constitutional crisis or lead to impeachment proceedings against Trump.
Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said on Monday that it would be a big mistake if Trump were to fire Mueller before the investigation is complete.
“I think he needs to leave Mueller alone,” Corker told CNN, adding that the Senate may even include protection for the Special Counsel in an upcoming government funding bill which would make it harder for Trump to veto it.
When asked how his colleagues would react if Trump did fire Mueller, Corker said it would be the “stupidest” thing the president could do, and the result would be “a total upheaval in the Senate.”
Trump, his supporters, and lawyers so far are denying he will fire Mueller – but the president has shown he can be impulsive, obstinate and not take even friendly experts advice when in a corner, so anything can happen.
Cohen is smart to put try and put every member of Congress on the record before Trump explodes, as he inevitably will, and the country is thrown into a crisis.