A bipartisan bill to make it harder to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller just passed out of a senate committee with broad support from both parties.
On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee agreed on a 14-7 vote to pass the Special Counsel Integrity Act, which explicitly states that only the Attorney General — or the most senior Department of Justice official in the event of a recusal by the Attorney General — can fire a special counsel conducting an investigation.
According to NPR, all 10 Democrats on the committee, in addition to committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and three other Republicans voted in favor of the bill. The names of Republican supporters of the bill were not immediately available on the committee’s website as of this writing. However, it’s likely that the bill’s Republican co-sponsor, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) voted for it, and possibly Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), who has been vocal in his opposition to Trump (despite voting in line with Trump 84 percent of the time).
“Because special counsel investigations only occur where there is a conflict of interest within the executive branch, special counsel investigations are usually matters of great national concern,” Sen. Grassley told Congress. “And Congress, by exercising its oversight powers, can help the American people to have confidence that these investigations are conducted efficiently and independently.”
Despite the bill’s passage out of committee, the vote was likely a symbolic one, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) has already stated that he wouldn’t bring the bill up for a vote on the senate floor even if it did pass a committee vote, saying he trusts President Trump to not fire Robert Mueller.
“I don’t think he should fire Mueller and I don’t think he’s going to, so this is a piece of legislation that’s not necessary, in my judgment,” Sen. McConnell told Fox News last week. “I’m the one who decides what we take to the floor, that’s my responsibility as the majority leader, and we’ll not be having this on the floor of the senate.”
Here is Mitch McConnell saying he will not permit a Senate floor vote on the bipartisan bill now moving through Senate Judiciary Committee that would heighten protections against Trump forcing an arbitrary firing of Mueller. pic.twitter.com/SVOYPeVdxk
— Charlie Savage (@charlie_savage) April 17, 2018
President Trump has stated publicly he has no intention of firing Robert Mueller, and White House press secretary Sarah Sanders has reiterated Trump’s intentions to allow the special counsel to complete his investigation, Trump has secretly tried to fire Mueller on two different occasions — once in June of 2017, and again in December. If Trump were to fire Robert Mueller, he would have to first fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and any other DOJ employees who refuse to remove Mueller before he can do so.
Jake Shepherd is a freelance writer from Cleveland, Ohio. He enjoys poring through financial disclosure statements, spirited debate, and good scotch. He remains eternally optimistic about the Browns. Email him at jake.d.shepherd.21 (at) hotmail (dot) com.