Republicans Moving to Protect Mueller as President Trump Unleashes Attacks

Eloise Marshall
April 13, 2018

The Senate Judiciary Committee appears poised to vote in two weeks on a bill that would give job protections to Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, even as President Donald Trump asserted again Thursday that he has the authority to fire the man investigating connections between Trump's campaign and Russian operatives.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa plans to put the bill on the panel's agenda tomorrow, according to George Hartmann, a Grassley spokesman, though it could get delayed for a week by an objection from a committee member.

The legislation would write into law the existing Justice Department regulations that say a special counsel can only be fired for good cause and by a senior Justice Department official. On Wednesday he called it "corrupt" and said Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the probe, have conflicts of interest.

Still, with the president's threats growing, other Republicans said they would be supportive if there are enough votes to get it out of the Judiciary Committee.

The bill would also give a special counsel the ability to go to court to challenge a firing.

Trump told reporters on Monday that "many people" have told him he should fire Mueller. If a three-judge panel determines there was not good cause, the special counsel would be reinstated.

"This compromise bipartisan bill helps ensure that special counsels - present or future - have the independence they need to conduct fair and impartial investigations", said Sen.

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Grassley had asked for consent from his Democratic counterpart, Sen.

Ryan of Wisconsin would also have to put it up for a vote, and he has not yet commented on the new bill. Feinstein was also conciliatory, saying she was open to holding the vote before April 26.

"I'm at a loss to see how a call for the administration to be more transparent about decisions involving the special counsel - including any decision to fire the special counsel or curtail his investigation - would undermine the Mueller investigation", he said. It would still have to clear the full Senate, the House, and be signed by Trump.

Senators from both parties introduced a pair of bills late last summer aimed at protecting Mr. Mueller, and the Judiciary Committee held a hearing to consider their constitutionality.

The legislation introduced by Republicans Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Lindsey Graham of SC and Democrats Chris Coons of DE and Cory Booker of New Jersey - all members of the Judiciary panel - would write into law the existing Justice Department regulations that say a special counsel can only be fired for good cause and by a senior Justice Department official. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who controls what bills reach the floor, has said such a bill is not needed.

"No. 1, I don't think it's necessary, and No. 2, it may not be constitutional", Cornyn said.

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