VTDigger: Welch Introduces Bill to Protect Mueller
As rumors swirled Friday that President Donald Trump was preparing to dismiss a top Department of Justice official, lawmakers took steps to defend the special counsel and his probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., introduced a bill in the House Friday with Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., that would protect special counsel Robert Mueller in the event he is fired by the president.
“You have a bipartisan, bicameral bill to protect the independence of the special counsel, and that is a clear a signal that we can send to the president that he’s got to respect the independence of the special counsel,” Welch said.
The bill sets restrictions on reasons for firing the special counsel, and requires written notice explaining the removal. If Mueller were fired, the bill would allow the dismissal to be appealed to a three-judge panel.
Welch said that he’s not optimistic about the prospects for the legislation in the House at the moment. However, he believes things are shifting.
“This is a process where I’m seeing my Republican colleagues express increasing alarm at the direction the president seems to be headed,” Welch said.
The legislation mirrors a Senate bill, sponsored by Sens. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., Chris Coons, D-Del., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., which is slated for review in the Judiciary Committee next week.
However, the chair of the committee, Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has indicated he will add an amendment to the bill — which has led to disagreement on the committee.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the most senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has been vocal in calling for lawmakers to defend Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
A spokesperson for Leahy said Friday that the senator supports the bipartisan bill to protect the special counsel in its current form.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., also supports the bill.
The legislation was introduced in the House Friday as rumors swirled that Trump was preparing to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Rosenstein appointed Mueller to head the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from involvement.