Panel Votes on Bill to Protect Mueller 04/26 06:09
The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on a bill to protect
special counsel Robert Mueller's job -- legislation that has split Republicans
as President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized Mueller's Russia
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on a
bill to protect special counsel Robert Mueller's job --- legislation that has
split Republicans as President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized Mueller's
Two Republicans and two Democrats introduced the bill earlier this month as
Trump publicly criticized the special counsel. Mueller is investigating
potential ties between Russia and Trump's 2016 campaign as well as possible
obstruction of justice by the president.
The measure under consideration Thursday would give any special counsel a
10-day window to seek expedited judicial review of a firing. A handful of
Republicans have supported it, but most have opposed 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.
With most Democrats on board, the bipartisan group has been working in
recent days to gather additional Republican votes. They have been negotiating
with Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who had floated an
amendment that included increased reporting to Congress by the special counsel.
Democrats had initially opposed Grassley's amendment, saying it could
undermine the investigation if the special counsel had to reveal too much to
Congress. 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 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 "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.
The resolution "may be a way forward because it avoids the
unconstitutionality issue on a bill that the president won't sign and the House
won't pass," Cornyn said. "So that may be a place for us to land."
Trump's legislative director, Marc Short, said in a broadcast interview
Sunday that "as far as I know, the president has no intention of firing" either
Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees Mueller's
investigation. Short said he couldn't rule it out in the long term, though,
because it's not known "how far off this investigation is going to veer."
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's office, in an
investigation overseen by federal prosecutors in New York.
After the raid, Trump said the Mueller investigation is "an attack on our
country" and is "corrupt."