nsucurrent.com May 24, 2018

In Warning to Trump, Senators Advance Bill to Protect Mueller

27 April 2018, 12:52 | Colleen Roy

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Amid fresh fears that President Donald Trump will fire top federal officials investigating alleged Russian election interference and actions by his campaign and administration, a Senate committee on Thursday approved a bill that aims to protect the probe, putting pressure on Senate leadership to bring it to the floor for a vote.

Democrats also held out hope that the bipartisan committee vote Thursday would persuade McConnell, who said last week that the bill was "not necessary", to change his mind.

The bill, which passed 14 to 7, would impose restrictions on the US attorney general's ability to fire a special counsel.

The committee's vote comes as President Donald Trump continues to criticize Mueller, who is investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian Federation in the 2016 election, as well as frequent reports that the White House is considering ousting him from the job. The president has repeatedly called the special counsel's probe a "witch hunt". Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, opposes the bill.

The lawmakers also approved an amendment Grassley crafted that would require Congress to be notified when a special counsel is appointed or removed as well as provide a report when an investigation concludes. Should the court find that the firing was not for good cause, the special counsel must return to their job.

Trump reportedly considered firing Mueller at least twice previous year.

Thursday, Grassley said "transparency and accountability" are in the public interest.

Trump has reportedly mused about firing Mueller and has tweeted that he is "conflicted" in his role as special counsel. A previous version of that amendment almost derailed committee passage of the bill, but Grassley was able to come to a compromise with Democrats to win their support.

It is unlikely, however, that the bill will get a vote on the floor of the full Senate.

Even senators who voted against the legislation warned Mr. Trump against trying to dismiss Mr. Mueller.

Sen. John Cornyn, the Senate's No. 2 Republican, co-sponsored an amendment with GOP Sens.

Almost all GOP senators say Trump shouldn't fire Mueller. Mike Lee of Utah and Hatch as an alternative to replace the text of the special counsel bill with a "sense of the Senate resolution". Grassley acknowledged that he had "constitutional concerns" with the bill, but emphasized that "it's clear that Congress has an oversight role to play" when it comes to how the executive branch wields its power.

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