Senate panel to probe special counsels amid bills to protect Mueller

Senate panel to probe special counsels amid bills to protect Mueller
© Greg Nash
The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing next week on the role of special counsels, as lawmakers push two bills to make it harder to fire Robert Mueller, who is leading the FBI's Russia investigation. 
 
Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySenate GOP poised to break record on Trump's court picks This week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation Kavanaugh paper chase heats up MORE's (R-Iowa) office announced that they will hold a hearing on Tuesday about "special counsels and the separation of powers." 
 
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The notice from the committee, overseen by the Iowa Republican, doesn't say who will testify or if they will discuss two bills aimed at blocking the White House or Justice Department from unilaterally firing Mueller, but Grassley has suggested it could be a topic.
 
Trump and his allies have lashed out at Mueller, who is probing Russia's interference in the 2016 election and any ties to the Trump campaign. The war of words has raised concern that Trump or the Justice Department could try to fire Mueller. 
 
One proposed bill, from GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Democratic Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.), would require a judge to approve a Justice Department request to fire Mueller or any other special counsel. 
 
Another, from GOP Sen. Thom Tillis (N.C.) and Democratic Sen. Chris Coons (Del.), would let Mueller or any special counsel challenge their firing in court.
 
Coons appeared to signal that he expects the two bills to be discussed during next week's hearing.
 
"I am pleased to hear that the Senate Judiciary Committee has announced a hearing on the bipartisan Special Counsel Integrity Act, which I introduced with Senator Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisSenate adds members to pro-NATO group GOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki On paper, Wilkie is the perfect candidate for VA secretary, but his qualifications go further MORE (R-NC) in early August, and similar legislation from Senators Graham and Booker," he said in a statement. "This bill is about ensuring that the Special Counsel cannot be removed improperly, a protection that is critical not just for the current investigation but for investigations conducted by special counsels in the future."  
 
The notice comes a day after Grassley said there was "good chance" that his committee could dig into the two bills. 
 
"We're looking into it, and there's a good chance we'll have a hearing," Grassley told reporters when asked Monday about a potential hearing. 
 
Tillis had separately told CNN that the Judiciary Committee would hold a hearing in the next two weeks.  
 
The Judiciary Committee is currently running an investigation into interference in the 2016 election, potential attempts by the Obama or Trump Departments of Justice to interfere in FBI investigations and the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.