Sparring after revelation of Trump effort to fire Special Counsel last June
Developments on Day 374 of the Trump Administration:
GOP Legislators Differ Over Trump’s Attempts to Curb Trump-Russia Inquiry
Republicans in Congress divide over protection of Special Counsel Robert Mueller if Donald Trump orders his dismissal to limit or halt the Trump-Russia investigation.
Lindsey Graham of South Carolina summarized his proposal to check Trump’s power over Mueller, and Susan Collins of Maine supported a measure on Graham’s lines.
But House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California claimed that there is no need to pass such a measure, and he defended the conduct of Trump and his team.
Last week it was revealed that Trump ordered the firing of Mueller in June, only weeks after Trump had dismissed FBI Director James Comey in an unsuccessful effort to stop the inquiry into contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials. The effort was blocked by the threatened resignation of White House counsel Don McGahn.
The revelation added to a series of incidents which could be investigated by Mueller as obstruction of justice, including efforts to remove other high-level FBI officials and the allegated dictation by Trump of a false memo by his son Donald Jr. over a June 2016 meeting in Trump with three Kremlin-linked envoys.
Officials close to the White House also say Trump is again fuming about Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and talking of his dismissal. With the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions from the inquiry, Rosenstein is the only official with the formal authority to fire Mueller.
“I have got legislation protecting Mr. Mueller. And I’ll be glad to pass it tomorrow,” Graham said, referring to a proposal that he presented last August with Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey. The bill requires a panel of judges to review any decision to fire a Special Counsel before it is carried out.
“Everybody in the White House knows it would be the end of President Trump’s presidency if he fired Mr. Mueller,” Graham said.
Collins supported both the Graham-Booker initiative and a similar proposal by GOP Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Democrat Christopher Coons of Delaware: “It would certainly not hurt to put that extra safeguard in place, given the latest stories.”
But House Majority Leader McCarthy said, “I don’t think there’s a need for legislation right now to protect Mueller,” as he maintained that Trump’s camp “have fully cooperated” with the investigation.
While expressing confidence in Mueller, McCarthy backed the campaign to undermine confidence in the FBI and the Justice Department, pursued by Trump staff and their allies for months to unsettle the inquiry. He questioned the motivations of personnel involved, spreading the claim that private texts criticizing Trump mean the investigation is politically biased.
Meanwhile, the White House continued its attempt to wish away the confirmation of Trump’s attempt to remove Mueller.
Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short said, “I’m not aware the President ever intimated he wanted to fire Robert Mueller.”