Mueller protection bill reintroduced in the Senate, but still no prospects for floor time

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has argued the bill is unconstitutional

Sens. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., left, and Chris Coons, D-Del., are among the leaders of the legislation to protect Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The senators pushing legislation Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III from any risk of improper termination by President Donald Trump are not giving up.

Their bipartisan legislation expired at the end of the last Congress, and they announced Tuesday that they were introducing it again, despite continued opposition from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

McConnell has argued the bill is unconstitutional.

While the two lead Republicans on the bill — South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham and North Carolina’s Thom Tillis — stressed that they did not think Trump or the Justice Department would seek to stop Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the American political system, the bill would nonetheless send an appropriate message.

“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 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. We were able to build a bipartisan base of support for this legislation last year, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to build the additional support required to advance it through the Senate.”

The legislation has been led on the Democratic side by Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Chris Coons of Delaware. The combination bill was reported from the Judiciary Committee with support from both sides last year, and Graham is now going to be the chairman of that committee.

Former Sen. Jeff Flake became perhaps the most vocal advocate for the bill in the entire Senate last year, stalling confirmation of some of Trump’s lifetime nominations to the federal judiciary as a way of trying to force McConnell to put the Mueller shield bill up for a floor vote. The Arizona Republican was not successful.

But with 53 senators now in the Senate Republican Conference, and so far no one publicly taking up Flake’s objection, it is likely that the Trump-McConnell confirmation train will be back on the tracks for the 116th Congress.

In the House, members of the new Democratic majority introduced companion legislation on the first day of the new Congress. House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., introduced the bill along with senior members of the committee.

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