Democrats up calls for Congress to protect Mueller
© Camille Fine

Democrats are doubling down on their push to limit the Trump administration’s ability to unilaterally fire Robert Mueller as the special counsel’s probe heats up.

Mueller unveiled charges against former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his associate Richard Gates on Monday. The special counsel’s office also announced that former Trump campaign aide George Papadopolous has pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators.

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Democratic lawmakers are warning in light of the charges that the probe into Russia’s election interference and potential ties between Moscow and the Trump campaign must be allowed to continue unimpeded.

"The president must not under any circumstances in any way interfere with the special counsel's work. If he does, Congress must respond swiftly, unequivocally and in a bipartisan way to ensure that the investigation continues and ... the whole truth comes out," Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerMJ Hegar announces Texas Senate bid Hillicon Valley: House Dems subpoena full Mueller report | DOJ pushes back at 'premature' subpoena | Dems reject offer to view report with fewer redactions | Trump camp runs Facebook ads about Mueller report | Uber gets B for self-driving cars Dem legal analyst says media 'overplayed' hand in Mueller coverage MORE (D-N.Y.) said from the Senate floor.

He added that "Mueller and his team should be allowed to seek answers to those questions without interference from the president or anyone else."

Senators have introduced two bills aimed at blocking Trump or the Justice Department from firing Mueller without cause.

One proposed bill, from GOP Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamBarr to testify before Senate panel next week on Mueller report Kushner saying immigration plan will be 'neutral' on legal admissions: report Africa's women can change a continent: Will Ivanka give them her full support? MORE (S.C.) and Democratic Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBooker fundraises off Biden announcement The symbol of 'Wakanda' and black political vision The Hill's Morning Report - Trump tells House investigators 'no' MORE (N.J.), would require a judge to approve a Justice Department request to fire Mueller or any other special counsel. The second bill, from GOP Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisDem super PAC campaign urges Republicans to back impeachment McConnell pledges to be 'Grim Reaper' for progressive policies Pro-life Christians are demanding pollution protections MORE (N.C.) and Democratic Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsMenendez, Rubio lead Senate effort to regulate Venezuelan sanctions Dem report questions State Dept. decision to revoke award to Trump critic Booker takes early lead in 2020 endorsements MORE (Del.), would let Mueller or any special counsel challenge their firing in court.

Rep. Steve CohenStephen (Steve) Ira CohenDems seek to rein in calls for impeachment Dems attack Barr's credibility after report of White House briefings on Mueller findings Democrats, GOP poised to pounce on Mueller findings MORE (D-Tenn.) is planning to propose a constitutional amendment in the wake of Monday's news to prohibit a president from pardoning themselves, their families, members of their administration or people who worked for their presidential campaigns. 

 

Schumer’s remarks were quickly echoed by members of the Senate Democratic caucus, who have publicly worried for months that Trump could try to fire Mueller.

“Any direct or indirect attempts to interfere with or undermine the Special Counsel’s investigation are dangerous, and could possibly constitute obstruction of justice. … All of us now — Republicans and Democrats alike — must protect the integrity and independence of the Special Counsel’s investigation,” said Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyDurbin calls Mueller report findings on Trump team 'troubling' 20 Dems demand no more money for ICE agents, Trump wall The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump, Dems prep for Mueller report's release MORE (D-Vt.), a former chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseHillicon Valley: Washington preps for Mueller report | Barr to hold Thursday presser | Lawmakers dive into AI ethics | FCC chair moves to block China Mobile | Dem bill targets 'digital divide' | Microsoft denies request for facial recognition tech Dems introduce bill to tackle 'digital divide' Senators press drug industry 'middlemen' over high prices MORE (D-R.I.), who is supporting Graham’s legislation, said “Mueller, his team, and the grand juries with which they are working must be allowed to continue their work free from political interference.”

Vermont Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersElection analyst says Biden could face uphill battle attracting small-dollar donors Gillibrand 'not worried' about being 'discounted' in 2020 race Biden's sloppy launch may cost him MORE, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, added: “President Trump must not, in any way, try to derail or obstruct this effort.”

Democrats are also warning Trump against trying to pardon individuals caught up in Mueller’s probe, which they argue could be seen as an attempt to obstruct justice.

"Members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, must also make clear to the president that issuing pardons to any of his associates or to himself would be unacceptable, and result in immediate, bipartisan action by Congress,” Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerDems reject Barr's offer to view Mueller report with fewer redactions GOP senators divided on Trump trade pushback Hillicon Valley: Trump unveils initiatives to boost 5G | What to know about the Assange case | Pelosi warns tech of 'new era' in regulation | Dem eyes online hate speech bill MORE (Va.), the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.

Sen. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallNew Mexico senators request probe into militia group detaining migrants Latino group urges state lawmaker to make primary challenge to Democrat for Georgia House seat Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 MORE (D-N.M.) added on Monday that lawmakers should “join together and promise swift and decisive action to defend the Constitution if President Trump tries to fire Special Counsel Mueller or issue a pardon of his associates.”

And Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOn The Money: Treasury misses second Dem deadline on Trump tax returns | Waters renews calls for impeachment | Dem wants Fed pick to apologize for calling Ohio cities 'armpits of America' | Stocks reach record high after long recovery On The Money: Cain withdraws from Fed consideration | Says he didn't want 'pay cut' | Trump sues to block subpoena for financial records | Dems plot next move in Trump tax-return battle Pelosi downplays impeachment post-Mueller report MORE (D-Calif.), Warner’s counterpart in the House, appeared to offer a prebuttal to Monday’s announcement by telling ABC News on Sunday that, “I don't think the president's power is all as, that absolute, as people have been suggesting.”

Trump's previous flirtations with firing Mueller, who is widely respected in Washington, sparked bipartisan backlash on Capitol Hill. Though GOP leadership has held off on supporting either of the Senate bills they’ve also publicly thrown support behind Mueller continuing his investigation.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump has no plans to fire Mueller in response to the charges announced on Monday.

"There is no intention or plan to make any changes in regards to the special counsel," she told reporters.

But conservatives, including the Wall Street Journal's editorial board, are increasingly calling on Mueller to resign.

Trump also hit back against Mueller’s charges on Monday, arguing his campaign did not collude with Russia and that Manafort was old news.