Senate bill would allow Mueller to challenge firing in court

Senate bill would allow Mueller to challenge firing in court
© Greg Nash

A pair of senators are working on a backup plan to protect Robert Mueller and the investigation into ties between President Trump's campaign and Russia after the president floated the possibility of firing the special counsel.

GOP Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisOvernight Defense: Over 500 amendments proposed for defense bill | Measures address transgender troops, Yemen war | Trump taps acting VA chief as permanent secretary Trump to nominate acting VA secretary to lead department Dem urges House Oversight to subpoena Cambridge Analytica MORE (N.C.) and Democratic Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsCongress, Trump eye new agency to invest in projects overseas On World Press Freedom Day, elected officials must commit to keeping press freedom nonpartisan Overnight Defense: Pompeo clears Senate panel, on track for confirmation | Retired officers oppose Haspel for CIA director | Iran, Syria on agenda for Macron visit MORE (Del.) introduced the Special Counsel Integrity Act on Thursday, which would let Mueller or any special counsel challenge their firing in court.

The challenge would be heard by a three-judge panel within 14 days. If they aren't able to find "good cause" for the firing, the special counsel would be reinstated.

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“A back-end judicial review process to prevent unmerited removals of special counsels not only helps to ensure their investigatory independence, but also reaffirms our nation’s system of check and balances," Tillis said in a statement.

The bill would be retroactive back to May 17, when Mueller was named as special counsel for the investigation into Russia's election interference, but would also apply to any special counsel named after that date.

Coons added that "ensuring that the special counsel cannot be removed improperly is critical to the integrity of his investigation."

Under the legislation, only the attorney general, or — in such cases as Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsStopping Robert Mueller to protect us all Chris Christie compares Mueller investigation to 'Bridgegate' probe Oakland mayor fires back at Trump: ‘It’s my duty to protect my residents’ MORE, who has recused himself in the investigation — the most senior Justice Department official, could discipline or fire a special counsel.

It would also codify existing Justice Department rules that the special counsel can only be removed for "misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or other good cause, like a violation of departmental policies."

Such a clause would prevent Trump from firing Mueller. 

The legislation comes as Trump has repeatedly lashed out against Mueller's investigation. Allies of the administration have also accused the former FBI director, who is widely respected in Washington, of being too biased to lead the probe.

Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham: Trump will 'end North Korea’s threat to the American homeland' in his first term Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers weigh in after Texas school shooting Kim Jong Un surprises with savvy power plays MORE (R-S.C.) are working on separate legislation that would limit Trump's ability to fire Mueller.