Senate Republicans, including some of President Trump’s sharpest GOP critics, are rebuffing Democratic demands to pass 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 Corker (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 associate 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 pass 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 Flake (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 Graham (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 pass 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 Booker (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 Tillis (N.C.) and Democratic Sen. Chris Coons (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.