Senate committee passes bill that would protect Mueller
A key Senate committee on Thursday passed a bill that would protect special counsel Robert Mueller — whom President Trump has repeatedly criticized over the Russia investigation.
Republicans said the bill was not necessary because Trump was not going to fire the special counsel, who is probing Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.
“Firing Mueller would create a firestorm, and may even lead to impeachment,” warned Utah GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch, reading from prepared remarks during a hearing before Senate Judiciary Committee.
The final vote was 14 to seven, with four Republicans — Committee Chair Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Sens. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Thom Tillis of North Carolina joining all of the committee’s Democrats.
Two Republicans and two Democrats introduced the bill earlier this month as Trump ramped up criticism of the special counsel and the probe, which he has called a hoax, witch hunt and fake news.
The measure may be DOA, however, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed not to let it proceed to a vote in the full chamber.
GOP senators also said the bill would never pass in the House and that Trump would never sign it.
But Democrats on the committee praised the effort.
“This an important step to protect the special counsel from being fired,” Sen. Diane Feinstein of California wrote on Twitter.
Earlier, Trump said that he wasn’t planning to fire Muellers or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein now — but added that he might change his mind.
“I am very disappointed in my Justice Department. But because of the fact that it’s going on, and I think you’ll understand this, I have decided that I won’t be involved,” Trump said in a telephone chat with “Fox & Friends,” the president’s favorite news show.
”I may change my mind at some point, because what’s going on is a disgrace.”
The bill would give any special counsel a 10-day window to seek expedited judicial review of a firing and would put into law existing Justice Department regulations that a special counsel must be fired for good cause.
A handful of Republicans have supported it, but most have opposed it, arguing that it is unconstitutional or unnecessary.
The four lawmakers who wrote the legislation — Tillis, Graham and Democrats Chris Coons of Delaware and Cory Booker of New Jersey — hoped to win enough bipartisan support to move it out of committee.
Then, they said, they could try and find enough support in the full Senate to persuade McConnell to change his mind.
The bipartisan group of four senators introduced two separate bills last August when Trump first started to criticize Mueller publicly.
That legislation stalled for months, but was revived and the two bills were combined two weeks ago as Trump fumed about a raid of his personal lawyer Michael Cohen’s office in an investigation overseen by federal prosecutors in Manhattan.
After the raid, Trump said the Mueller investigation was “an attack on our country” and “corrupt.”
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