Judiciary Dems warn Trump: Don't fire Mueller, Sessions during House recess

Judiciary Dems warn Trump: Don't fire Mueller, Sessions during House recess
© Greg Nash

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are nervous about actions President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he doesn't want to use 'adversary' to describe Russia Comey urges Americans to vote for Democrats in midterms Roby wins Alabama GOP runoff, overcoming blowback from Trump criticism MORE might take during a scheduled two-week congressional recess.

Roughly a dozen lawmakers in a press conference on Thursday warned that a “constitutional crisis” would ensue if the president attempted to fire special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE or other top government officials overseeing the Russia probe and investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin. 

ADVERTISEMENT
“Do not meddle with the special counsel’s investigation,” cautioned Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), the top Democrat on the committee.

The press conference comes amid speculation that Trump will carry out a “Saturday night massacre” during the upcoming congressional recess, when lawmakers are in their home districts and less prepared to respond to a possible ouster, according to Rep. Ted DeutchTheodore (Ted) Eliot DeutchGOP congressional candidate tells Parkland father to stop 'exploiting' his daughter's death Senate harassment bill runs into opposition from House House Dems want to hire Parkland students for the summer MORE (D-Fla.).

Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinHillicon Valley: Trump tries to quell Russia furor | Sparks fly at hearing on social media | First House Republican backs net neutrality bill | Meet the DNC's cyber guru | Sinclair defiant after merger setback Sparks fly at hearing on anti-conservative bias in tech Dems try to end hearing on bias against conservatives in tech MORE (Md.), a senior Democrat on the committee, said the president could seek to block the probe from moving forward in two ways: either through a “guillotine” or a “straightjacket.”

Raskin as well as other Democratic members, raised concerns Trump may seek to fire Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsHomeland Security advisory council members resign over family separations: report Once a Trump critic, Ala. rep faces runoff with his support Ryan: 'The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally' MORE or Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinDespite clarification, Trump's Russia remarks put intel chiefs in tough spot More than 100 civil and human rights groups call on Senate to reject Kavanaugh Freedom Caucus lawmakers call on DOJ to probe Rosenstein allegations MORE, who is overseeing the Russia investigation since Sessions recused himself last spring.

The members speculate that the president may seek to replace the top two Justice Department officials with lackeys, who can then either seek to fire Mueller or curb his ability to run the high-profile investigation.

The Democrats called on their Republican colleagues to join them in protecting the special counsel, claiming many of their GOP colleagues — particularly Republican leadership — have remained relatively mum about Mueller’s safety.

“This should not be partisan. It should in fact be non-partisan,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeOvernight Defense: Defense spending bill amendments target hot-button issues | Space Force already facing hurdles | Senators voice 'deep' concerns at using military lawyers on immigration cases Live coverage: Justice IG testifies before House on report criticizing FBI Merkley leads Dem lawmakers to border amid migrant policy outcry MORE (D-Texas).

Several lawmakers seized on the recent remarks by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyDem lawmaker calls on House to subpoena American translator from Trump-Putin meeting The Hill's Morning Report — Trump isolated and denounced after Putin meeting Ryan: 'The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally' MORE (R-S.C.) who, directing his comments to the president’s legal counsel, said during a recent television appearance that the president is not acting like he is innocent.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), a former attorney, echoed those remarks, claiming the president’s actions “scream consciousness of guilt.”

Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), a vocal critic of the Trump administration, advocated for the committee to pursue impeachment hearings if Trump does seek to end the investigation.

Nadler, who declined to explicitly say whether he would support such a move, maintained “all options will remain on the table.”

The Judiciary Democrats pointed to the GOP decision not to support adding a statement concerning the special counsel in the omnibus spending bill, which is expected to be voted on Thursday afternoon. When asked whether they would vote to support the omnibus since there is no text about protecting the special counsel, Nadler said that their fear remains hypothetical.

Democrats previously raised alarm that Trump would seek to shut down Mueller’s investigation before the New Year, which proved not to be the case.