In what is essentially a message to President Donald Trump that they really don’t trust him, members of the GOP-led Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to advance a bill to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller from being fired without “good cause” and giving him a 10-day window for judicial review were he to be let go.
The bill now goes to the full Senate but may never see the floor.
McConnell, R-Ky., has said the bill is unnecessary and he won’t let it reach the Senate floor. But the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee added to the pressure on McConnell by voting for the measure and saying McConnell should change his mind.
“While my constitutional concerns remain, I believe this bill should be considered by the full Senate,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.
Republicans have split on the issue amid President Donald Trump’s repeated criticism of Mueller’s Russia investigation. That break was apparent Thursday as four Republicans joined Democrats in the 14-7 vote to pass the legislation from committee. For now, the move is largely symbolic, given McConnell’s opposition, but it shows the complexity of Republican support for Trump when it comes to the president’s attacks on Mueller.
Despite assurances from many leading Republicans such as Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (Wis.) and Rep. Trey Gowdy (S.C.) that Trump would be making a mistake were he to fire Mueller, Democrats have been calling for some kind of legal protection for the investigator charged with looking at possible collusion with Russian during the 2016 campaign.
Trump has expressed his displeasure with Mueller at times, but the administration has repeatedly announced they would not fire the special counsel.
However, White House legislative director Marc Short indicated in a statement last week that Trump could change his opinion on the matter because it’s impossible to tell “how far off this investigation is going to veer.”