The president again ramped up his criticism of the nation’s justice system this week, seizing on the opportunity given him to do so following the Monday FBI raid of his personal lawyer Michael Cohen’s office.
He suggested late Monday that he was open to firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller altogether, and on Tuesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders reiterated that the president certainly “believes” that he has the power to dismiss the special counsel.
Against this backdrop, it’s come out this Wednesday that a bipartisan group of Senators has come up with a new proposal to protect the special counsel from the president. The provision is a combination of two previously released proposals to defend Mueller’s position; should the measure become law, special counsels would become entitled to an “expedited judicial review” within ten days of a firing meant to determine if they had been fired with just cause.
In the meantime, the infrastructure of the investigation would have to be preserved.
The legislation also addresses the question of who exactly can fire the special counsel; although Sanders indicated, as mentioned, that the president believes he has the authority to personally do so, that’s not necessarily the case. Should the newly reveled legislation become law, it would become officially not the case, and special counsels would only be able to be fired by a senior Justice Department official.
In the case of Robert Mueller, that official would no doubt be Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who took over leadership of the Russia investigation after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself and is the one who appointed Mueller in the first place. Rosenstein has attracted the ire of the president for his support of Mueller’s inquiry, but for now, he still has a job.
The legislation is the work of a bipartisan group of members of the U.S. Senate including Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.). The group includes high profile names but — as of early Wednesday — they’ve yet to garner the support of Senate leaders like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).
Even still, Sen. Grassley was reported early Wednesday to be setting up the measure for a vote in his committee. With the support of the two Republicans in the initial group behind the legislation, the measure could make it to the floor, where it would have to overcome the hurdle of the current Republican majority in the Senate. From there, it’s hardly a given that the president would sign such a measure, even if it made it through Congress.
Whether or not Senate Republicans get on board with the measure, it’s definitely relevant. Just this week, The New York Times came out with a report about a second instance of the president trying to get Mueller dismissed. In addition to the incident soon after Mueller’s initial appointment last year, the paper reported on an incident in December where the president tried to get the special counsel dismissed.
He ultimately backed off after his lawyers obtained clarification that reports about a new line of Mueller’s inquiry didn’t cover the full story.
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