Republican and Democratic senators concerned that President Donald Trump may try to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller have introduced legislation aimed at protecting the former FBI director’s role leading the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and possible ties to Trump associates.
Under current rules governing how a special counsel can be removed, Trump can’t fire him directly. But there is increasing concern on both sides of the aisle in Congress that the president, who has repeatedly dismissed the Russia probe as “a witch hunt,” could just waive those regulations and oust him.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller as special counsel, assured Congress that he would not fire him without cause.
But legislators are seeking to check executive power by making any indefensible firing of the special counsel far tougher to do.
One bill would provide for a judicial review
Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) on Thursday introduced the Special Counsel Integrity Act which calls for judicial review in the event any special counsel is fired without justification.
The bill — which is retroactive to May 17, the day Mueller was appointed — focuses on judicial recourse in case of an unwarranted removal of a special counsel,
The Delaware senator said the legislation would create “a private right of action for a special counsel, empowering him to seek judicial review” in the event of a firing and to get a determination within 14 days of the action being filed.
“This reflects, in my view, a broader bipartisan concern that the president might take inappropriate action to interfere with the ongoing important work of Special Counsel Bob Mueller,” Coons told a small gathering of reporters Thursday.
Sen. Tillis said the bill would provide a check on the president’s power to fire a special counsel.
“The president would maintain the power to remove the special counsel, but we would just want to make sure that it had merit and have that back-end judicial process,” Tillis told CNN.
Another bill seeks to prevent unwarranted dismissal
Earlier this week, another bipartisan pair of senators, Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) unveiled legislation with a similar goal. But their bill seeks to prevent an unwarranted dismissal by providing an expedited review of the decision by a three-judge panel in federal court.
Coons said the bill by him and Tillis would work in tandem…