Donald Trump has already made public comments that suggest he’d like to get rid of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who’s currently overseeing the federal investigation into the Trump-Russia scandal. With Mueller reportedly having impaneled a grand jury, it’s likely the president’s opposition to the probe has reached new heights.And while Trump lacks the legal authority to fire the special counsel directly, there’s a growing fear the president may try to shake up the Justice Department’s leadership in order to force Mueller out. It’s against this backdrop that there’s a bipartisan effort underway to protect Mueller from the president.
Two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are moving to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s job, putting forth new legislation that aims to ensure the integrity of current and future independent investigations.
Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware plan to introduce the legislation Thursday. The bill would allow any special counsel for the Department of Justice to challenge his or her removal in court, with a review by a three-judge panel within 14 days of the challenge.
The bill would apply retroactively to May 17, 2017 — the day Mueller was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to investigate allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible ties between Russia and Donald Trump’s campaign.
As Sen. Coons explained on last night’s show, there are actually two related pieces of legislation under consideration. His bipartisan bill would give Mueller legal options if Trump took steps to fire him, while a separate bill, championed by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), intends to give Mueller protections before he’s ousted.
It’s too soon to say with any confidence whether these measures are going to become law, and with no companion measures in the Republican-led House, it’s probably best to keep expectations in check. That said, the fact that these bipartisan Senate measures exist at all is striking.
Indeed, after months of questions about whether GOP senators would ever do anything meaningful to defy Trump, some real evidence is coming to the fore. Senate Republicans recently ignored the White House’s position on new Russia sanctions; they ignored the president’s demands that they remain in session until passing a health care bill; they’re prepared to take steps to protect Bob Mueller from him; and they told the administration that in a fight between Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, GOP senators would side with the latter.
It’s a start.