The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved legislation that would protect special counsel Robert Mueller if President Trump decides to make changes to leadership atop the Justice Department, with four Republicans joining all Democrats in backing the bill.
The bipartisan legislation, finalized earlier this month, gives Mueller and other special counsels 10 days to challenge their firing through a judicial review in the courts. It would also codify Department of Justice regulations that say only a senior Department of Justice official can fire Mueller or another special counsel.
The vote to advance the bill to the full Senate floor marks the first time Congress has advanced legislation to formally protect Mueller from being fired by President Trump, who has repeatedly attacked him in public and dismissed the probe as a “witch hunt.”
The bill, sponsored by Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), would give a special counsel an “expedited review” of their firing. If a court determines that it wasn’t for “good cause,” the special counsel would be reinstated.
Trump appeared to suggest Thursday he has no intention of trying to fire Mueller, but he left open the possibility he could change his mind in the near future.
“I am very disappointed in my Justice Department. But because of the fact that it’s going on, and I think you’ll understand this, I have decided that I won’t be involved,” Trump said in a telephone interview with “Fox & Friends” on Thursday. “I may change my mind at some point, because what’s going on is a disgrace.”