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McConnell Nixes Bill to Protect Mueller04/18 06:21

   Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has 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.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has 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 Tuesday 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.

   Republicans off the committee had questions too --- and some acknowledged 
that it could be politically difficult.

   South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds said Tuesday that Trump that should make the 
decision on his own and be responsible for the consequences.

   "I think having Congress tell him what we believe he should do in this case 
is simply poking the bear, and I'd just prefer not to do that," Rounds said.

   Oklahoma Sen. Jim Lankford said the bill is a "political distraction."

   "You create this whole constitutional political stir over something that is 
not going to happen," he said.

   Others said there was little point.

   "It's about as popular as cholera with the leader in the Senate and it's 
about as popular as malaria in the House," said Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy, a 
member of the Judiciary panel. "I think most people think we're picking an 
unnecessary fight with the president."

   Coons bristled at the criticism that the legislation is unconstitutional, 
noting that several courts have upheld similar special counsel statutes.

   "If I were convinced this were unconstitutional, I would not be moving it," 
said Coons, a lawyer.

   At a September hearing on the two separate bills, before they were combined, 
scholars were divided on whether the bills were constitutional, with some 
voicing concerns that allowing the judicial branch that authority over an 
executive decision may not pass muster in the courts.

   "I think it's probably unconstitutional and I don't think there's any 
realistic chance that the president will fire Mr. Mueller," Sen. John Cornyn, 
the No. 2 Republican in the Senate and the former Texas attorney general, said 
Tuesday.

   McConnell agreed, adding that Trump would never support the legislation.

   "Just as a practical matter, even if we pass it, why would he sign it?" 
McConnell said in the Fox interview.

   Republicans who have talked to the White House almost uniformly have held 
the line that Trump will not fire Mueller or Rosenstein --- including Tillis 
and Graham, who say they are pushing the legislation because it would be good 
policy under any president.

   "I don't think he's going to fire Mueller, but I think institutionally it 
would be nice to have some protections," Graham said Tuesday.

   Tillis acknowledged last week that he had taken some "heat" from 
conservatives for the bill, but told the Judiciary panel, "this is really an 
opportunity to take an ethical stand, and not do it when the situation benefits 
you."

   Democrats said Republicans opposed to the legislation were simply protecting 
Trump.

   Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a member of the Judiciary Committee, 
said the argument over constitutionality is a "red herring used by some of my 
colleagues as a pretext for opposing the bill, when they really have other 
reasons." He gave no specifics.

   Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence 
committee, said the special counsel bill is "so much more" than another policy 
debate.

   "I think this will be one that history will judge us all," Warner said.


(KA)

 
 
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