There are two bills in the Senate to protect special counsel Robert Mueller from being fired. But in an interview with right-wing talk-show host Hugh Hewitt, reports Brandon Carter at The Hill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Saturday that Congress has no role in getting between Donald Trump and Mueller should the pr*sident try to give him the boot.
Trump cannot fire Mueller directly. But he might pull it off with a more circuitous route. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election, and put it in the hands of Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who has said he would not fire Mueller without cause. Trump could, however, fire Sessions and appoint a replacement attorney general whose authority would supersede Rosenstein’s and who could fire the deputy A.G. But McConnell sees no need:
“I don’t hear much pressure to pass anything,” McConnell said in an interview with Hugh Hewitt. “There’s been no indication the president or the White House are not cooperating with the special counsel.”
“I think the view up here is, let him do his job,” McConnell continued.
The spineless McConnell’s comment comes in the wake of Mueller’s first indictments handed down Monday against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates, as well as the newly revealed arrest and guilty plea last summer of George Papadopoulos, a former campaign adviser whose role in trying to facilitate contacts and meetings between the Trump campaign and top-level Russians was a lot greater than previously publicized. Papadopoulos’ cooperation with the special prosecutor has got to be worrying the White House, although probably not quite as much as members of the Gambino Mafia family were worried about the 1991 testimony of hitman and underboss Sammy “The Bull” Gravano.
Manafort and Gates were both charged on 12 counts of conspiracy against the United States and money-laundering. Charges against Papadopoulos relate to his lying to FBI interrogators regarding his Russian contacts for the Trump campaign. His cooperation is likely to lead to additional indictments, which, some close observers say, may include members of Trump’s family or the pr*sident himself.
The two Senate bills to check the Trump’s ability to fire the special counsel were drafted in August—one by Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and Christopher Coons, D-Del., and the other by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Cory Booker, D-N.J.
Graham and Booker’s bill would require that firing Mueller first be okayed by a three-judge federal panel. Tillis and Coons’ bill would let firing proceed but allow the special counsel to challenge the move, again before a three-judge panel. The judges would then have two weeks to determine whether the firing was legitimate.
But those bills have languished in the Senate for three months, and now Graham has retreated. He told The Hill:
"I don’t feel an urgent need to pass that law until you show me that Mr. Mueller is in jeopardy," Graham said Monday, adding that no one in their “right mind” would fire Mueller.
Uh, Lindsey, could we talk?