Senators seek to block Trump from removing special counsel Robert Mueller

(USA TODAY) - If a bipartisan group of senators has its way, special counsel Robert Mueller isn't going anywhere.

Two bills introduced Thursday, right as the Senate prepared to leave for its August break, are designed to protect special counsels from political interference. The introduction of the measures comes as President Trump continues to express his ire over Mueller's probe into Russian meddling into the 2016 presidential election.

The first bill, introduced by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., would require a judicial review to remove a special counsel from office. The attorney general or acting attorney general would have to petition a federal court and establish that there was a "good cause for removal," such as misconduct, incapacity or conflict of interest.

Graham said he believed this would "serve the country well."

"We should all be interested in making sure that special counsels have oversight," he said in a statement. "Special counsels must act within boundaries, but they must also be protected."


Booker added that special counsels "should never be subjected to interference because of where an investigation takes them."

Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., cosponsored the measure.

The second bill comes from Sens. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and Chris Coons, D-Del. This measure would allow a special counsel to challenge their removal in federal court. A panel of judges would be required to review the challenge within 14 days.

The legislation would be retroactive to May 17, 2017, the day that Mueller was appointed.

"A back-end judicial review process to prevent unmerited removals of special counsels not only helps to ensure their investigatory independence, but also reaffirms our nation’s system of check and balances," Tillis said in a statement.

Coons added that the measure would "safeguard our democracy."

"Ensuring that the special counsel cannot be removed improperly is critical to the integrity of his investigation," he said in a statement.

If all else fails, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., offered this suggestion on Thursday: Congress could hire Mueller itself.

"I think that if he were to be removed, however it's done by the assistant attorney general or a new one, Congress would assert its prerogatives," Flake said during an interview on MSNBC. "That would mean hiring a special prosecutor. That might even be Bob Mueller."

Congress has no authority to appoint an independent investigator.

Post-Watergate, Congress did pass a statute that created an independent counsel that was appointed by a panel of judges and provided reports to the legislative branch. That statute expired in 1999.

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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