As Robert Mueller’s special probe begins releasing indictments against former Trump officials, some key voices in conservative media have begun arguing that the president should fire the former FBI director just as he dismissed then-FBI Director James Comey.
But Republicans in Congress have multiple legislative vehicles for protecting Mueller’s investigation, should they choose to use them. At least two bipartisan bills have already been introduced in Congress that would prevent the president from dismissing Mueller without additional oversight.
One, co-sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee members Sens. Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Chris Coons (D-DE), would allow Justice Department special counsels to challenge their removals in court. A three-panel judge would then get to adjudicate the challenge — meaning Trump could be overruled should he try to fire the special counsel. Their Special Counsel Integrity Act would also mandate that only a Senate-confirmed attorney general can remove a special counsel appointed by the Justice Department.
The other bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), would similarly ensure that special counsels can only be removed by Senate-confirmed attorney generals. It would also mandate that a special counsel can only be removed if a panel of three judges on a federal circuit determines that the counsel finds “misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or other good cause, including violation of policies of the Department of Justice.”
“Special counsels must act within boundaries, but they must also be protected,” Graham said in a statement when the bill was first introduced his August. “Our bill allows judicial review of any decision to terminate a special counsel to make sure it’s done for the reasons cited in the regulation rather than political motivation.”
Senate Republicans have been coy about whether they would move to insulate Mueller if Trump follows the conservative calls to dismiss the special counsel’s investigation.
But if they’re interested in taking action, they have options already on the table.