Democrats prepare to force vote on Mueller protection bill
House Democrats are preparing to force a vote Thursday on a plan to protect special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe from interference or unilateral removal by President Donald Trump.
Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern, with the backing of Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee, intend to introduce the proposal as an amendment ahead of expected consideration of three tax-related bills. The proposal would force Republicans to decide whether to consider the Mueller-protection proposal or sideline it.
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For Democrats, the effort is a chance to force Republicans on the record on an issue that has generated some bipartisan support in the House and Senate. It’s a matter Democrats have described with increasing urgency as Trump has ratcheted up his attacks on Mueller and the investigation of his campaign’s contacts with Russia.
Republicans, though, have shown little urgency to support the measure, even as most have expressed support for Mueller being allowed to complete his work. They’ve argued that they don’t believe Trump will try to remove Mueller, despite his rhetoric describing the investigation as illegitimate and a “witch hunt”
The measure, which has the backing of six House Republicans in addition to more than 120 House Democrats, would prohibit a special counsel from being removed without “good cause,” such as a violation of Justice Department policy. The proposal would also prohibit removal by anyone other than the attorney general or the most highly ranked Justice Department official who oversees the special counsel.
In addition, the measure must provide written notice of any removal decision, including a detailed explanation, and provide the special counsel an opportunity to appeal to a three-judge panel. The court would also decide whether the special counsel would remain active while any appeal is pending — and would guarantee that all documents, resources and materials are preserved.
Two Republican senators, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, backed an identical measure in the Senate.
McGovern intends to introduce an amendment to a House rule to govern debate on three tax bills. The amendment would require Republicans to add the special counsel legislation to the list of bills to be considered.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, has long sought the committee’s consideration of the legislation but has been stymied along partisan lines from a hearing or vote.