Top Republicans Are Officially At Odds Over Bill to Protect Robert Mueller

Senators Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Chris Coons (D-Delaware) were unsuccessful Wednesday in their push for a vote on the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act, a bill aimed at protecting Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his ongoing Russia investigation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has come out against the Act, but Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) spoke out in favor of it on Thursday.

Grassley said that not only should the bill get a vote on the Senate floor, he’s in favor of it passing.

“It’s legitimate that the bill be brought up,” he said, according to The Hill. “It would satisfy me if it became law because I voted for it.”

The bill, formally known as S.2264, says:

A Special Counsel appointed under this chapter … may be removed from office only by the personal action of an Attorney General who has been confirmed to that position by the Senate, or the most senior Senate-confirmed officer of the Department listed in section 508 who is not recused from the matter.

Since current acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker was not confirmed by the Senate, he would not be legally allowed to fire Mueller if this bill were to pass. The bill also calls for a special counsel to receive 10 days’ notice before their termination becomes effective, allowing them to challenge the decision in federal court. That means that if a dismissal takes place under questionable circumstances, it may not stick.

Flake and Coons required unanimous consent to have a floor vote on the bill, which they did not receive. McConnell was the one who blocked it, even though he had previously stated that Mueller should be able to finish the Russia probe.

Prior to Flake and Coons calling for a vote, the bill had passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee by a vote of 14 to 7. Those 14 included Chairman Grassley. He remains in favor of the measure, but said he won’t join Flake in trying to press Republicans leadership to go along with it.

“I’m not going to be in forefront with Flake advocating that the leader do so and so, but I wouldn’t do anything to stop it,” he said.

[Image via Alex Wong/Getty Images]

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