Senate Republicans, including some of President Trump’s sharpest GOP critics, are rebuffing Democratic demands to pbad legislation protecting special counsel Robert Mueller as his investigation into the 2016 election ramps up.
“I can’t imagine any administration taking a move like that,” Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTillerson eliminates key State Department sanctions office: report Overnight Cybersecurity: Top Dems seek data from GOP badytics firms | Georgia election server wiped after lawsuit | Corker says Trump officials implementing Russia sanctions Corker: Trump officials moving forward with delayed Russia sanctions MORE (R-Tenn.) told reporters Monday when asked if legislation to shield Mueller from a potential firing was necessary.
Mueller on Monday unveiled charges against Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manger, and his business badociate Richard Gate. Former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos has also pleaded guilty to making false statements to federal investigators.
The charges, as well as growing pressure from conservatives for Mueller to resign, sparked a new push from Democrats for Congress to pbad legislation that would block the Trump administration from being able to fire the special counsel unilaterally.
But Republicans argue the legislation isn’t needed, for now, because they don’t believe Trump would fire or try to have the Department of Justice (DOJ) fire Mueller, who is widely respected in Washington.
“There’s no indication that he’s going to … fire [Mueller] or pardon [anyone] at this point,” said Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeGOP Senate hopeful rips McConnell for ‘smearing’ conservatives Dallas Morning News: Cornyn ‘betrays’ GOP by backing Roy Moore Michael Steele: Trump’s feud between Flake and others is personal, not political MORE (R-Ariz.), who, like Corker, has feuded openly with Trump.
Pressed if that means he doesn’t think legislation is necessary, Flake, who is retiring after 2018, added: “We’ll see.”
Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamOvernight Finance: House adopts Senate budget, taking step to tax reform | GOP worries Trump feuds will endanger tax plan | Trump talks NAFTA withdrawal with senators | Treasury calls for looser oversight of insurers Fractures emerging on Senate panel’s Russia probe Graham, Booker to testify as character witnesses for Menendez MORE (R-S.C.) also downplayed the chances that Mueller would get fired, saying no one in their “right mind” would fire the special counsel.
“I don’t feel an urgent need to pbad that law until you show me that Mr. Mueller is in jeopardy,” he told reporters on Monday evening.
Senators have offered two bills that would get the court system involved with any attempt by DOJ to fire Mueller.
One proposed bill, from Graham and Democratic Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerGAO to investigate Trump’s voter fraud commission Graham, Booker to testify as character witnesses for Menendez Dems to introduce bill barring Trump from preemptive strikes without Congress approval MORE (N.J.), would require a judge to approve a Justice Department request to fire Mueller or any other special counsel.
A second bill, from GOP Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisMcCain pleased at ‘progress’ with Pentagon after Niger briefing Trump feuds endangering tax reform The Hill’s 12:30 Report MORE (N.C.) and Democratic Sen. Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsOvernight Cybersecurity: Lawmakers grill Trump officials over Kaspersky threat | Trump camp distances itself from data firm | What we know about Bad Rabbit | Conservative groups back data privacy bill The Supreme Court should exercise judicial restraint in Microsoft data case In nuclear deal debate, Iran knows Congress, US allies are on its side MORE (Del.), would let Mueller or any special counsel challenge their firing in court.
Democrats, because they are in the minority, will need the support of at least a dozen Republicans to round up the 60 votes needed to get a bill through the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP Senate hopeful rips McConnell for ‘smearing’ conservatives Overnight Finance: House adopts Senate budget, taking step to tax reform | GOP worries Trump feuds will endanger tax plan | Trump talks NAFTA withdrawal with senators | Treasury calls for looser oversight of insurers Trump’s Senate oversight holiday must end MORE (R-Ky.) has yet to weigh in on Monday’s developments. But Sen. John CornynJohn CornynAdvocates pan Trump effort on opioid crisis Dallas Morning News: Cornyn ‘betrays’ GOP by backing Roy Moore Overnight Finance: House adopts Senate budget, taking step to tax reform | GOP worries Trump feuds will endanger tax plan | Trump talks NAFTA withdrawal with senators | Treasury calls for looser oversight of insurers MORE (R-Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, asked if additional legislation is needed, sidestepped.
“I think [Mueller] knows what to do and he’s doing it,” he told reporters.
Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) told Fox News that he didn’t believe legislation was “necessary.”
The president previously flirted with firing Mueller, sparking bipartisan concern in Washington.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Monday that Trump wasn’t weighing firing Mueller in the wake of Monday’s charges.
“There is no intention or plan to make any changes in regards to the special counsel,” she told reporters.
But both CNN and The Washington Post reported that Trump grew frustrated on Monday as he watched TV coverage of both the indictments against Manafort and Papadopoulos’s guilty plea, with one Republican describing the president as “seething.”
Mueller is investigating Russia’s election interference and potential ties between Moscow and the Trump administration. He was appointed as special counsel by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in the wake of then-FBI Director James Comey’s firing.
Corker argued on Monday evening that Trump wouldn’t repeat his previous mistake of roiling Washington as he did with Comey’s firing
“He did [fire Comey,] but probably wishes he didn’t,” Corker said, “and I just can’t imagine that happening again.”