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Bill to Protect Mueller and Investigation Could Be Going to a Vote Again
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10 Jan 2019 06:31 PM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Lindsey Graham (Image source: Michael Vadon via Wikimedia Commons)


With the office of the attorney general in such a flux, it's more important than ever to keep Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his Russia investigation safe. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the new chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee,  said in a Wednesday interview that the bill to protect Mueller is likely going to get another vote.   

He'll be reintroducing that bill along with Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), Cory Booker (D-NY), and Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE). The committee approved it with former Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) at the helm, but now it will need another vote now that the Senate is back in session.


Graham suggested that if the Russia investigation has not finished by February, he will likely put the bill to keep the special counsel safe to a vote again. Four GOP senators supported the bill last time, but one of those was now-retired Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), a well-known critic of Trump. 

"Let's see what's going on with Mueller in the next 30 to 40 days," suggested Graham. "Institutionally, it's a good thing to have for the future. It's not the top priority, but it's important."


The initiative would protect Mueller from getting fired, except by an official who has been confirmed by the Senate and for "good cause." It also allows special counsel to demand a judicial review after being fired. 

Flake kept trying to bring this bill to the Senate floor in the last session, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to ever allow it to go to a formal vote.


He and other Republicans have stated that the bill isn't necessary because Trump will never fire Mueller. However, Trump has repeatedly attacked Mueller and the investigation and called it a witch hunt. 

As further reasoning for not being necessary, GOP senators are insisting that the former Attorney General William Barr, Trump's nominee to become the new, permanent attorney general, isn't going to interfere with Mueller's investigation.


This is important, as before he was the nominee, he had been critical of Mueller and the investigation, just as Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker was. 

This was announced after top Republican senators left a meeting with Barr. "Based on what I heard, he has a high opinion of Mr. Mueller, believes Mr. Mueller is doing a professional job, will do a professional job, and be fair to the president and the country as a whole," stated Graham.


He added that the former attorney general sees “no reason for Mr. Mueller to stop doing his job and is committed to allowing Mr. Mueller to finish.” 

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) agreed.  “William P. Barr is what I would call a judicial law-and-order attorney general. He’s not a politician,” he explained. “He respects [Mueller], and I think he’s on record saying he thinks he should be allowed to complete his work. To me, that’s the long and short of it.”


This is all despite a memo he wrote last year questioning Mueller's investigation of Trump potentially obstructing justice when he fired FBI Director James Comey. Some have felt Barr should recuse himself because of the memo and other opinion pieces he wrote concerning Comey as well as suggesting the Justice Department continue to investigate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. 

Ahead of Barr's confirmation hearings that are due to begin next week, some Democratic senators have complained that Barr is refusing to meet with them, citing the government shutdown.


"William Barr's refusal to meet with Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee is entirely unprecedented and unacceptable," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) in a statement. 

"The Department of Justice's attempt to excuse this gross break in the norms by citing a 'truncated schedule' is galling when they are the ones who have rushed it. My Republican colleagues should share my outrage at this appalling violation of the Senate's independent authority."


DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec explained that Barr is meeting with both Democrats and Republicans "despite the holidays, reduced DOJ staff and resources due to the partial government shutdown and the compressed timeline to prepare for the upcoming hearing." 

She concluded, "He will continue to do so both before and after the hearing and looks forward to meeting with Sen. Blumenthal and his colleagues."

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