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Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Bill Shielding Mueller

Robert Mueller on Capitol Hill in 2012. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation Thursday shielding Special Counsel Robert Mueller from potential dismissal.

The bill, which passed 14–7 with the support of all the panel’s Democrats and four Republicans, codifies Department of Justice regulations that limit the reasons a special counsel can be fired, requires Congress be given advanced notice of an impending firing, and gives a terminated special counsel the chance to appeal their firing in court.

The measure has little chance of going to the Senate floor for a vote as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has repeatedly indicated he doesn’t believe it is necessary.

The committee chairman, Charles Grassley (R., Iowa), made a last minute change to the bill Wednesday night to ensure its passage, removing a provision that would require the special counsel to notify congressional leadership “if there is any change made to the specific nature or scope” of their investigation. Democrats on the panel were reportedly concerned that the language would be used to provide Republicans an advanced opportunity to rebut forthcoming findings in the press.

“It is possible the bill goes too far,” Grassley said at a committee meeting Thursday. “But at the very least, if my amendment is adopted, it will require the executive branch to give more information to Congress, and that will allow Congress to do its job more effectively and to safeguard the interests of the American people.”

Rank-and-file Democrats continue to emphasize the importance of the legislation in light of Trump’s continued public attacks on Mueller’s investigation, while Republicans outside of the committee have been hesitant to voice their support, though many have publicly cautioned Trump against firing Mueller.

Trump indicated he might intervene to stop the probe Thursday morning during a phone interview on Fox & Friends.

“You look at the corruption at the top of the FBI — it’s a disgrace,” Trump said. “And our Justice Department, which I try and stay away from, but at some point I won’t…”

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