Two bills aimed at preventing President Donald Trump from firing special counsel Robert Mueller stalled last year with a lack of enthusiasm from Republicans in Congress. And despite Thursday’s revelation that Trump did order Mueller’s ouster over the summer, the bills’ odds still don’t look great.
The bipartisan bills were introduced last summer, when President Donald Trump was raging against Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the Russia probe. Some lawmakers in Congress grew concerned that Trump would seek to oust Mueller by replacing Sessions, and drew up legislation to protect the special counsel.
But most Republicans in the Senate dismissed the bills, arguing that the legislation was unnecessary because Trump wouldn’t dare fire Mueller.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said in November that he had not heard “much pressure to pass anything” and that there was “no indication” Trump was not cooperating with Mueller. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, said in August that a bill to keep Trump from firing Mueller was uncalled for “because I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
Even Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), two vocal critics of the President, said that they were not worried that Trump would actually try to remove Mueller.
However, thanks to the New York Times, we now know that Trump did order Mueller’s removal, and backed off the effort only when White House Counsel Don McGahn threatened to resign.
As of Friday afternoon, Republicans in Congress were not exactly rushing to promote legislation protecting the special counsel, even as their Democratic colleagues urged them to do so.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) called for Congress to pass a bill to protect Mueller, and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) issued a blistering statement complaining that “instead of protecting Mueller’s investigation from undue interference, many Republicans in Congress have stepped up their spurious attacks against the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the Special Counsel.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), did tell CNN Friday that he would be “open” to considering bills to protect Mueller but said that he still doesn’t believe Trump would fire Mueller. However, Republican leaders have yet to weigh in on the matter.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), one of the co-sponsors for a bill to protect to the special counsel, now says that its not an “urgent” matter.
“[T]he chatter that the administration is considering removing Special Counsel Mueller has completely come to a halt,” Tillis spokesperson Daniel Keylin told The Daily Beast. “In fact, the president and his administration have spoken favorably of Special Counsel Mueller’s professionalism and integrity, and recent reports indicate the investigation may soon come to an end.”
Many of the Republicans who did respond to the news Thursday night and Friday simply shrugged it off. Rep. Jason Lewis (R-MN) said he wasn’t sure he could believe the New York Times report revealing Trump’s push to fire Mueller.
“There have been so many stories on this particular quote, unquote Russia investigation, I don’t know what to believe anymore. We’ll see,” Lewis said on CNN Friday, adding that the “mainstream” media relies too heavily on anonymous sources.
Former Trump campaign and transition staffer Jason Miller said that the reports on Trump’s move to fire Mueller were “suspect.” And the hosts of Trump’s favorite cable news show, “Fox and Friends,” said that the revelation “screams of a leak from the special counsel.”
Fox News’ Sean Hannity at first questioned the New York Times’ reporting, but when his own network confirmed the story, he argued that Trump had the right to question Mueller’s credibility.
Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) found the silver lining in the reports and pointed out that White House Counsel Don McGahn stopped Trump from firing Mueller.
“If it’s true, it would be concerning to me,” Stewart told CNN’s Chris Cuomo Thursday night. “But it would also show that the process worked, that the people and the organization around the President did what they needed to do and that the outcome was actually the right outcome and that was Mr. Mueller wasn’t fired.”