A Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee said she thinks President Donald Trump would never sign legislation protecting the role of Robert Mueller as special counsel in charge of the Russia investigation, but Congress should pass such a bill anyway to send a message to the White House.
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine was responding on “This Week” Sunday to ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos’ question, “Does Robert Mueller need protection?”
“It would not hurt if we passed legislation to send a message to the White House that we want the investigation to continue,” Collins said. “But the fact is that the president is never going to sign that legislation, and there are some legitimate constitutional concerns about it.”
J. Scott Applewhite/AP ImagesSen. Susan Collins, joined, from left, by Sen. Lindsey Graham, Lisa Murkowski, and Rep. Greg Walden, pushes for inclusion in the pending government spending bill of provisions to lower health insurance premiums on the Affordable Care Act marketplace.
She added that even “having the discussion in Congress helps send a very strong message that we do not want Mr. Mueller’s investigation interfered with in any way.”
Trump has considered in the past taking action to remove Mueller and as recently as last week he mused about it.
After the FBI raided the home, office and hotel room of Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, the president said in a meeting with military leadership about Syria, “Why don’t I just fire Mueller? Well, I think it’s a disgrace what’s going on. We’ll see what happens … And many people have said, you should fire him.”
Two days later, on Wednesday, a bipartisan group of four senators on the Judiciary Committee offered legislation that would give any special counsel 10 days to seek an expedited judicial review of an attempt to fire them. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Chris Coons, D-Del., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., introduced the bill.
Judiciary Committee Chairman, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, said the panel will vote on the bill on April 26. But Grassley, like Collins, has expressed concerns about the bill’s constitutionality.
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Stephanopoulos asked Collins if besides passing legislation there are “steps the Senate could take to protect the integrity of the investigation.”
Michael Reynolds/EPA via ShuttestockDeputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein attends a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., March 23, 2018.
Collins said only the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, has the authority to fire Mueller because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from overseeing the investigation due to his involvement in the Trump 2016 election campaign.
“Even if somehow Mr. Mueller were fired… the investigation is still going to go on, so it would not spell the end of the investigation,” Collins said. “If a new deputy attorney general were nominated by the president, I cannot imagine the Senate confirming that individual without a clear commitment to appoint a new independent counsel.”