Republican senators once again blocked an expedited vote on bipartisan legislation that would protect the special counsel investigation should Robert Mueller be fired.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) objected to the legislation — insisting the bill was unconstitutional because it would create, he believes, a “de factor fourth branch of government.”
In reality, it creates a legislative check on the executive branch by ensuring that there would be a 10-day window in which the special counsel can appeal Mueller’s dismissal to a three-judge panel, which would have to find just cause for the firing.
Outgoing Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who has said he will oppose confirmation of judicial nominees until protections for the Mueller investigation are in place, explained on the floor why he believes the bill is as urgent as ever.
“It wasn’t just that the attorney general was fired,” Flake said, referring to President Trump’s decision to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions the day after the election. “It’s that oversight of the investigation was taken from the deputy attorney general — where it properly belongs and where it sat before — it was taken from him and given to someone who… has not been confirmed by the Senate.”
Sen. Jeff Flake says oversight of Mueller probe was given to Matthew Whitaker, "somebody who is in an acting capacity, somebody who has not been confirmed by the Senate."
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) November 28, 2018
Trump replaced Sessions temporarily — and seemingly indefinitely — with Matthew Whitaker, who was previously Sessions’ chief of staff. Sessions had recused himself from the Russia investigation, but Whitaker now has oversight over it, despite the fact he has openly criticized Mueller’s investigation.
Trump has admitted that Whitaker’s appointment was related to the ongoing investigation, which he called “illegal.”
In recent weeks, Trump has lashed out at Mueller almost daily on Twitter as anticipation grows that he might soon release his final report. On Wednesday, for example, Trump insisted that Mueller is encouraging witnesses to lie.
While the disgusting Fake News is doing everything within their power not to report it that way, at least 3 major players are intimating that the Angry Mueller Gang of Dems is viciously telling witnesses to lie about facts & they will get relief. This is our Joseph McCarthy Era!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 28, 2018
Noting these tweets, Flake said, “To be sanguine about the chances of him getting fired is folly for us, I believe.”
The White House, however, continued to dismiss concerns. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders seemed to ignore Trump’s daily bluster, saying Tuesday, “He could have taken action at any point and he hasn’t, so we’ll let that speak for itself.”
A poll earlier this month found 52 percent of Americans want Congress to protect the Mueller investigation, including 75 percent of Democrats and 53 percent of Independents. Only 23 percent of Republican respondents agreed. Nevertheless, even 57 percent of Republicans agreed the investigation should continue.