Almost since the moment former FBI Director Robert Mueller was appointed as a special counsel to investigate alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election, Democrats, along with some establishment Republicans, have sought to erect special protections around his investigation to “protect” him from being fired or otherwise interfered with by President Donald Trump.
A handful of senators tried once again on Wednesday to push through a “blatantly unconstitutional” piece of legislation to protect Mueller from being fired, but that effort was blocked on constitutional grounds by conservative Republican Mike Lee (R-UT), who took to the floor and formally objected.
An effort to “protect” Mueller
Politico reported that the legislation, which has been attempted previously, was brought to the floor again on Wednesday with a request for unanimous consent — which can be blocked by a single senator — prior to a full vote.
The senators pushing the bill included Democrat Sens. Chris Coons of Delaware and Cory Booker of New Jersey, along with retiring Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had blocked a prior attempt at a vote on the legislation and has expressed little fear of Trump actually firing Mueller, remained unsupportive of the measure this time around as well, and called it “a solution in search of a problem.”
Request for unanimous consent blocked
The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Lee cited a particular dissent opinion written many years ago by the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to make his argument that providing special protections for Mueller would be unconstitutional.
That dissent stated that “Prosecutorial authority in the United States belongs in the Department of Justice,” which in turn falls under the aegis of the president and the executive branch.
As such, granting a special level of independence to the special counsel would render it a “de facto fourth branch of government, fundamentally undermining the principle of the separation of powers” that is at the foundational core of our liberty and constitutional republic.
Lee then issued his objection to effectively kill the legislative attempt to protect Mueller, at least for now. You can watch Lee’s remarks right here, sandwiched between commentary in favor of the bill by Sens. Flake and Coons.
The senators who hate Trump and fear that he will interfere with or flat out fire Robert Mueller wanted to essentially make Mueller’s investigation completely independent of any sort of oversight or control by the executive branch, but Lee saw right through what they wanted to do and blocked that effort with a respectful nod to our nation’s constitutional separation of powers.
Flake’s pet project
Undeterred, Flake has already indicated that he plans to continue pushing the Mueller protection legislation, which he appears to have made his pet project. Flake said Thursday that he would make another attempt to get a vote next week.
The Arizona senator, who is retiring in January, has threated to vote against the Senate Judiciary Committee’s nominees until the Senate votes on the Mueller bill.