The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to vote on a bill which would effectively shield Special Counsel Robert Mueller from being fired by the Justice Department. The bill currently has bipartisan support, but it is unclear if the bill has enough votes to clear the committee.
Although President Trump said he does not wish to fire Mueller, co-sponsors of the bill believe the legal protection should be afforded. As Yahoo News reports, the bill would give the special counsel a 10-day window to allow a judge to review a potential firing. According to the report, two Republicans and two Democrats first introduced the bill earlier in the month when President Trump expressed criticisms of the ongoing investigation, which he continues to call a “witch hunt.”
Per Yahoo News:
The bill has divided Republicans, with a handful supporting the legislation and most opposing it, arguing that it is unconstitutional or unnecessary. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has argued that Trump won’t move to fire Mueller and has insisted he will not hold a full Senate vote on the legislation.
If Republicans support the bill, some may be at risk of angering Trump and some of his supporters they represent. But the four lawmakers who wrote the bill — GOP Sens. Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Democrats Chris Coons of Delaware and Cory Booker of New Jersey — are hoping to win enough bipartisan support to move it out of committee. Then, they say, they could try and find enough support in the full Senate to persuade McConnell to change his mind.
The bipartisan group has been negotiating in recent days with Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who had floated an amendment that included increased reporting to Congress by the special counsel.
Here’s more, via ABC 13:
Democrats had initially opposed Grassley’s amendment, saying it could undermine the investigation if the special counsel had to reveal too much to Congress during the investigation. But a revised Grassley amendment released Wednesday evening appeared to be a potential compromise, dropping a section that would have required the special counsel’s office to report to Congress if the scope of the investigation changed while it was ongoing. The revised amendment would require that notification after the investigation was done, along with a report detailing the investigation’s findings and explanations of any charges.
The Grassley amendment would also require notification if a special counsel were removed.
Republicans opposing the bipartisan bill are expected to vote for an alternative resolution that would express a nonbinding “sense of the Senate” that Mueller should be left alone to do his job.
Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate and a member of the Judiciary panel, endorsed that idea Wednesday, saying it had a more realistic chance of passing than the bipartisan bill. He is expected to propose the resolution at Thursday’s vote.
While Trump’s Legislative Director Marc Short has repeatedly said the president would not fire Mueller, Trump himself said on Thursday that he may change his mind.
From Boston Globe:
Trump said in a phone interview Thursday with ‘‘Fox & Friends’’ that special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe ‘‘is a disgrace.’’ Trump criticized federal agents for exercising search warrants on his lawyer Michael Cohen and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
‘‘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. ‘‘I may change my mind at some point, because what’s going on is a disgrace.’’
Trump’s come as the Senate Judiciary Committee is poised to vote Thursday on a bill to protect Mueller’s job.