Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday thwarted a bipartisan effort to protect special counsel Robert Mueller’s job, saying he will not hold a floor vote on the legislation even if it is approved next week in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
McConnell said the bill is unnecessary because President Donald Trump will not fire Mueller.
“We’ll not be having this on the floor of the Senate,” McConnell said on Fox News.
His comments came amid widespread opposition to the bill among members of his caucus, with several GOP senators saying the bill is unconstitutional. Others said it’s simply not good politics to try and tell Trump what to do, likening the legislation to “poking the bear.”
The bipartisan legislation was introduced last week as Trump publicly criticized Mueller, who is investigating potential ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 campaign as well as possible obstruction of justice by the president. Trump, fuming about a raid of his personal lawyer’s office by a different division of the FBI, said last week that the Mueller investigation is “an attack on our country” and is “corrupt.”
Trump has also privately pondered firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing Mueller’s investigation.
Within a day of Trump’s criticism, Republicans Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina combined two bills they introduced last summer to protect special counsels. They introduced the new bill along with Democratic Sens. Chris Coons of Delaware and Cory Booker of New Jersey, and Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, a Republican, announced that his committee would vote on the bill.
The legislation 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 require a firing to be for “good cause.”
Democrats immediately jumped on the legislation, but many Republicans have been cool to it.
At least three of the 11 GOP members of the Judiciary panel have said they will vote against it and another five have said they have questions about its constitutionality. Grassley is one of those with concerns, but said he felt obligated to hold a vote.
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