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Mike Lee: I Don’t Like Flake’s ‘Unconstitutional’ Play for Mueller Protection Vote

Utah Republican minced no words about outgoing Arizona senator

The threat by outgoing Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) to block President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees until GOP senators allow a bill protecting special counsel Robert Mueller to come up for a vote is “unnecessary” and “unconstitutional.”

So said Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) on Thursday morning on “The Laura Ingraham Show.”

After Trump fired former Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week and appointed acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker as a temporary replacement, many Democrats and some Republicans feared that Mueller and his probe into allegations of Russian collusion were at risk next.

Whitaker, who has been critical of the Mueller probe in the past, isn’t planning on recusing himself from oversight of the investigation, much to the Democrats’ chagrin.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other GOP senators insist Trump isn’t going to fire Mueller and that the legislation preventing the president from firing Mueller is unnecessary.

But Flake, one of the most anti-Trump GOP lawmakers, warned Wednesday that he will not support Trump’s judicial nominees unless the Mueller protection bill is brought to the Senate floor.

“The president now has this investigation in his sights, and we all know it,” Flake said.

Lee rebuked Flake for the threat, telling host Laura Ingraham, “I don’t like the tactic and I really, really dislike the underlying legislation that he’s trying to push.”

“I think it’s unnecessary and I think it’s unconstitutional to take a prosecutorial position like this one and put it beyond the authority of the president of the United States,” Lee warned.

Noting that the U.S. has three branches of government and that the president of the United States is the chief executive and officer of the executive branch, Lee said that putting forward legislation like this “would be tantamount to creating a fourth branch of government.”

“I think that’s a mistake. In any event, this guy’s been doing his work for what, a year and a half? If the president were going to fire him, it would have happened a long time ago,” Lee said. “I don’t know why he would let him go this long and then fire him.”

Lee lamented the sluggish rate at which the Senate has been confirming Trump’s judicial nominees. “At the rate that we’re going, it would take us about 10 years to fill all these positions and get them confirmed.”

“There’s no reason it should have to take this long,” Lee insisted.

Related: Dershowitz on Dems’ Trump Impeachment Efforts: ‘American Public Will Not Find That Attractive

The senator also praised Trump for backing the bipartisan First Step Act on Wednesday.

If passed, the bill would bring sweeping reform to the nation’s criminal justice system, allow judges to use more discretion in lower the sentences of nonviolent offenders, and support increased rehabilitation efforts, among other items.

Trump said Wednesday at the White House, “We’re all better off when former inmates can receive and re-enter society as law-abiding, productive citizens.”

“President Trump has always been a strong voice for tough-on-crime policies, and his endorsement of this bipartisan criminal justice reform bill yesterday I think should help bring this important legislation to the Senate floor,” Lee said.

“You’ll discover that this bill will make the American people safer, not less safe. And yesterday was a huge win for the American people and for criminal justice reform,” Lee said.

Noting that he has been working on this bill for eight years, the senator called Wednesday a “monumental day.”

“President Trump has always been a strong voice for tough-on-crime policies, and his endorsement of this bipartisan criminal justice reform bill yesterday I think should help bring this important legislation to the Senate floor,” Lee said.

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