A bipartisan group of lawmakers announced Tuesday that they’re planning to reintroduce a bill to protect special counsel Robert Mueller.
“I have every confidence Mr. Mueller will be allowed to finish the job,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in a statement.
“However, there needs to be institutional protections for special counsels both now and in the future,” Graham also said. “Our bill allows judicial review of any decision to terminate a special counsel to make sure it’s done for the reasons cited in the regulation rather than political motivation.”
President Donald Trump and the special counsel team have been at odds through most of his time in office.
The team is investigating the president and his associates in connection to the 2016 presidential election.
The Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act will be reintroduced this week to protect the special counsel investigation from the whims of the president.
Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Graham plan to release their bill this week. But it’s unclear whether the legislation will get far — considering it failed late last year during the previous session.
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked it from a final vote after it passed the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“This is a time when Republicans and Democrats need to stand up and protect the rule of law in this country,” Coons said in a statement. “This bipartisan bill is the best way to ensure that special counsel Mueller, and future special counsels, can complete their work without interference, and to make clear that no one is above the law.”
The legislation is intended to protect the special counsel team from inappropriate removal or political pressure. The bill does this by codifying existing Department of Justice regulations to ensure that the special counsel can only be fired for good cause and in writing by a senior department official.
“This bill’s protections will help ensure that our Justice Department will have the independence it needs to conduct fair and impartial investigations with appropriate reporting to Congress,” Tillis, for his part, said in a statement. “This will, in turn, reaffirm the American people’s confidence in our nation’s rule of law and the principle that no one is above the law.”
Mueller has been leading the special counsel investigation, which is looking at whether or not the president or his associates colluded with Russian interests during the campaign. Trump and his lawyers have attacked the special counsel team as a biased witch hunt against the president.
Congressional Republicans have also expressed concerns of bias.
The special counsel is also provided a 10-day window in which he can seek a quick judicial review of his removal to determine whether the firing — should that be the result — was for good cause. The removal could then be overturned if it’s ultimately determined to have violated the good-cause requirement.
The special counsel team has taken down a handful of former associates of the president since launching its investigation in May 2017. But it has yet to connect the president himself to any collusion allegations. And many of the charges already issued are because of unrelated crime allegations.
Former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn became an early target of the special counsel team.
He resigned a short time into his term when information surfaced that seemingly showed he lied about having a meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Flynn has had his sentencing hearing delayed several times, most recently on Dec. 18, 2018. U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan suggested the delay based on charges Flynn made false statements to the FBI when he was supposed to be cooperating in a separate case involving illegal lobbying for Turkey.
His lawyers have insisted he has held nothing back.
Flynn initially resisted cooperating but eventually he did after formalizing a deal with the special counsel to plead guilty in December 2017. The special counsel team eventually filed a memorandum recommending a lenient sentence because of his cooperation, with the possibility of no prison time, on December 4.
Michael Cohen, a former attorney for the president, admitted to lying to lawmakers in federal court about how much he discussed his proposed business project in Moscow with the president as part of his own plea deal.
Trump responded by calling him “weak,” adding he was only after a lighter sentence for his own crimes.
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