The Slatest

Report: Republicans Will Bring Bill Protecting Mueller to Committee Vote in Senate

Chuck Grassley and Dianne Feinstein on Capitol Hill on March 14.
Two old friends talkin’ legislation. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

As of Tuesday afternoon, most Republican senators (with the prominent exception of North Carolina’s Thom Tillis) were insisting that no legislation was required to protect Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation because Donald Trump would never fire Mueller. Now, though, Politico reports that Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, is planning to bring a bipartisan Mueller-protection bill to a Judiciary vote—which it would likely pass, given that it should receive the votes of each committee Democrat as well as Tillis and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who are two of its co-sponsors.

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What changed overnight? For one, there have previously been two Mueller billls floating around—one sponsored by Tillis and Democratic Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, the other by Graham and Democratic New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker. Those two bills have been combined, and Politico says that Grassley may be adding provisions to the final product to address his previously expressed concerns about the constitutionality of legislative action regarding the special counsel, who works under the auspices of the executive branch.

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The other thing that happened since Tuesday, though we don’t know for sure that it influenced Grassley, is that the New York Times reported that Trump tried to fire Mueller in December (the second time he’d done so, according to their sources). Then CNN reported that Trump is considering firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is Mueller’s boss. The reports undermined the case that formally protecting Mueller is unnecessary, not that it was a particularly strong case to begin with, and Rosenstein is a Republican who is (or at least was) respected within the law-enforcement/legal/political community of which Grassley, as the chairman of Judiciary, is a part.

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What would happen after the bill passed the committee is unclear. Mitch McConnell would be able to decide whether to bring it to a vote on the floor of the Senate, and while you could squint and see it getting 60 votes to break a potential filibuster (every Democrat plus Tillis, Graham and let’s say Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, Jeff Flake, Ben Sasse, Rand Paul, Dean Heller, Bob Corker, Richard Burr, and John McCain), there’s still the House and the matter of overriding a presumed presidential veto. Also, whether or not the bill could get 60 Senate votes eventually, South Dakota Sen. John Thune—a member of Republican leadership—just said it doesn’t have them yet:

So, in summary … ?

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