Despite Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) vowing that he will never allow a bill to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller and other investigators in the future to reach the full Senate for a vote, a group of Republicans and Democrats are pushing ahead anyway.
Senate Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the Republican who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee, said they will still consider legislation to protect the special counsel despite McConnell, who insists such a bill is not necessary because the president won’t fire Mueller.
#BREAKING: Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced that his committee will move forward with a vote on a bipartisan bill to protect Mueller from being fired by Trump, despite McConnell's opposition.https://t.co/ZGr8btxgHz
— Stand Up America (@StandUpAmerica) April 18, 2018
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Last year, Senators Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Christopher Coons (D-DE) had introduced a bill that would let Mueller or any future special counsel challenge their firing in court, but it has never gotten anywhere thanks to their obstructing colleagues.
More recently, Senators Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) put forward a bill that would require a judge to approve a Justice Department request to fire the special counsel.
Grassley told the authors of the two bills that if they could combine them he would allow a debate before the powerful Judiciary Committee.
“They got together so I feel an obligation to keep my word and move forward,” Grassley said, according to The Hill.
Now a bipartisan group has shaped legislation that would codify that only a senior Justice Department official can fire the special counsel, and then the special counsel, in this case Mueller, would get an expedited review of the firing by a federal court.
If the court decides that the special counsel was not fired for good cause, the special counsel would automatically be reinstated.
The bill will now be debated and then could be voted on by the committee as soon as tomorrow, although an actual vote is expected to be delayed until next week.
With bipartisan support on the committee, the bill appears likely to be approved, which means it would then be sent to the full Senate for a vote, where McConnell insists it will never reach the floor.
Grassley is sympathetic to McConnell, who he says has “a terrible job.”
“But I can’t worry about what’s going on on the floor,” added Grassley. “I’ve just got to do what I can do.”
The movement on the legislation comes after President Trump lashed out at Mueller following the FBI raids on his personal attorney Michael Cohen, which he called a “witch hunt.”
Trump has said he will not rule out firing Mueller, who provided a referral that led to the FBI to search Cohen’s home, office, and hotel room.
If the bill were to go to the full Senate it is far from clear it would get the necessary votes from the majority Republicans to pass, and it would have an even more difficult time in the Republican-dominated House, but the fact it has gotten this far is significant.
What it means is that if Trump were to fire Mueller without a very good reason, there could be the bipartisan support which would lead to a true constitutional crisis challenging the president’s prerogative.
“I have confidence in Mueller, the president ought to have confidence in Mueller, and I think it would be suicide for the president to want to talk about firing Mueller” — Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) https://t.co/GASxt3pqYI
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) April 10, 2018
It puts pressure on Trump not to fire Mueller (which technically would require the Justice Department to fire him).
As the heat rises on Trump, and as Mueller gets closer to the White House, it appears that the president’s options are shrinking and the danger to his continued reign is greater than it has ever been before.
Knowing Trump is impulsive, unpredictable, unethical and primarily interested in self-preservation, it has the makings of an explosive situation.