A group of Democratic senators and one Republican called for a legislative check on President Donald Trump’s ability to fire special counsel Robert Mueller Friday in the wake of reports that Trump considered the move over the summer.
The group of Democrats, joined by GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, called for votes on a bill that would require a panel of three judges to approve before the president could fire any special counsel. The group argued the bill, first introduced over the summer, took on new urgency after The New York Times reported Thursday that Trump ordered Mueller’s firing in June but recanted after White House counsel Don McGahn threatened response.
Republican leaders have downplayed the report’s significance, suggesting Trump’s volatility may have led to a momentary indiscretion but it was ultimately of no consequence since Mueller continues to lead the investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 election.
“If these latest reports are true, it seems to me that they show the president listened to good advice from his advisers,” GOP Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, who has jurisdiction over any special counsel bill as chair of the Judiciary Committee, said Friday. “Based on his statements from the last couple weeks, he and his lawyers appear to be cooperating with Mueller.”
Graham’s bill, which he co-authored with Democratic Sen. Corey Booker of New Jersey, is in competition with a similar bill, drafted by GOP Sen. Tom Thillis of North Carolina, which seeks to preserve executive power by granting a fired special counsel the right to appeal the president’s decision before a panel of judges. Grassley has said he will only consider one of the bills in committee but lawmakers have not yet settled the chosen legislation.
“The timeline is critical here,” Tillis spokesman Daniel Keylin told The Washington Post Friday. Keylin explained that Trump wanted to fire Mueller in June and the bills were drafted in August. Since their introduction, Keylin said, “the chatter that the administration is considering removing special counsel Mueller has completely come to a halt.”
News of Trump’s brush with firing Mueller came as reports emerged suggesting the investigation is increasingly focused on the question of whether Trump obstructed justice in firing former FBI Director James Comey.
Asked about the report while in Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum, Trump dubbed it “fake news.”
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