As Senators prepared to leave Capitol Hill for a four week summer break, a pair of lawmakers from both parties unveiled legislation designed to stop President Donald Trump from firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the former FBI Director who is now leading the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, who has been the target of attacks on his probe from both the President and some of his top supporters.
The two different bills have much the same goal – allowing for judicial review of any decision by the President to fire Mueller, and giving the Judicial Branch the power to reinstate Mueller to that investigatory post.
“It is critical that special counsels have the independence and resources they need to lead investigations,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), the lead Republican on one bill with Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE).
“Our constitutional order depends on a system of checks and balances, grounded in the fundamental premise that no one is above the law," said Coons.
“Special counsels must act within boundaries, but they must also be protected,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who filed his own separate bill with several Democrats.
“Congress must act, right away, to check this potential Presidential abuse of power,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), who is backing Graham’s bill.
A major undercurrent of these two bills – and of a bill that strengthened sanctions against Russia – is a desire by both parties in Congress to exert more Constitutional authority when it comes to lawmakers being a check on the power of the Executive.
That tweet by the President early on Thursday morning – which blamed Congress for bad relations with Russia and Vladimir Putin – drew a derisive reaction from some GOP lawmakers, who have become more and more vocal in recent days about their differences with the President on the Moscow regime.
“Huh,” said a puzzled looking Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ). “It is what it is,” he added, with a head-shaking chuckle.
“The relationship we have with Russia is solely because of Putin,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who has repeatedly said he is proud of the Congress for its work on the Russia sanctions bill, which Mr. Trump clearly did not like, but signed into law anyway.
But not everyone was at odds with the President when it comes to the Russia investigation.
“Robert Mueller is in a position where he has undermined his ability to carry out the law and must resign,” said Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), though that view is clearly in the minority for GOP lawmakers.