Legislation protecting special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE was blocked on Wednesday for a second time in the past month.
Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeBiden nominates former Sen. Tom Udall as New Zealand ambassador Biden to nominate Jane Hartley as UK ambassador: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Voting rights will be on '22, '24 ballots MORE (R-Ariz.), joined by Sens. Christopher CoonsChris Andrew CoonsBiden threatens more sanctions on Ethiopia, Eritrea over Tigray conflict Senate Democrats to Garland: 'It's time to end the federal death penalty' Hillicon Valley: Cryptocurrency amendment blocked in Senate | Dems press Facebook over suspension of researchers' accounts | Thousands push back against Apple plan to scan US iPhones for child sexual abuse images MORE (D-Del.) and Cory BookerCory BookerDOJ announces agencywide limits on chokeholds and no-knock entries Fighting poverty, the Biden way Top Senate Democrats urge Biden to take immediate action on home confinement program MORE (D-N.J.), tried to get consent to schedule the long-stalled legislation for a vote.
Flake questioned why his colleagues weren't "up in arms" after a string of tweets from President TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger says Trump 'winning' because so many Republicans 'have remained silent' Our remote warfare counterterrorism strategy is more risk than reward Far-right rally draws small crowd, large police presence at Capitol MORE bashing Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
"With the president tweeting on a regular basis, a daily basis, that the special counsel is conflicted, that he is leading so-called 12 angry Democrats and demeaning and ridiculing him in every way, to be so sanguine about the chances of him being fired is folly for us," Flake said.
Trump in a tweet hours before Flake's request blasted Mueller's probe into Russian election interference and possible collusion between the president's campaign and Moscow as the "angry Mueller gang of Dems" and exclaimed that it is "our Joseph McCarthy era."
But GOP Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeEconomy adds just 235K jobs in August as delta hammers growth Lawmakers flooded with calls for help on Afghanistan exit Afghanistan fiasco proves we didn't leave soon enough MORE (Utah) objected to voting on the legislation, arguing the bill had constitutional issues.
"As Justice Scalia explains, we cannot convert an office like this one ... without creating a de facto fourth branch of government fundamentally undermining the principles of the separation of powers that is so core to our liberty," Lee said.
Flake pledged that they would come back to the Senate floor to try to set up the bill for a vote again.
Under the upper chamber's rules, senators can go to the floor to request a vote or passage of any bill or nomination. But any one senator can block their requests.
The floor drama comes after Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynDemocrats make case to Senate parliamentarian for 8 million green cards Democrats to make pitch Friday for pathway to citizenship in spending bill Without major changes, more Americans could be victims of online crime MORE (R-Texas) said Republican leadership was measuring support for the bill to try resolve a standoff with Flake, who is voting against judicial nominees until the Mueller protection bill gets a vote.
"We're whipping that to see where people are. I think the leader needs that information to decide how to manage all the competing demands on our time," Cornyn said when asked about discussions within the Republican caucus about the legislation.
But there is still fierce opposition to the bill within the GOP caucus, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnell'Justice for J6' rally puts GOP in awkward spot Republicans keep distance from 'Justice for J6' rally House to act on debt ceiling next week MORE (R-Ky.) called it a “solution in search of a problem” on Tuesday.
The president has stepped up his Twitter attacks on Mueller's probe in recent days amid several new revelations, including the special counsel's charge that former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortDOJ investigating one-time Trump campaign adviser over alleged ties to Qatar: report Foreign lobbyists donated over M during 2020 election: report Former Mueller prosecutor representing Donoghue in congressional probes: report MORE had violated his plea agreement.
New reports emerged on Tuesday that Manafort's attorney had been sharing information with attorneys for Trump on his former campaign aide's cooperation with the Mueller probe.
Trump after the midterm elections forced Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsOvernight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability Stanford professors ask DOJ to stop looking for Chinese spies at universities in US Overnight Energy & Environment — Democrats detail clean electricity program MORE to resign and named Matthew Whitaker, Sessions's chief of staff, as acting attorney general. Whitaker, who has criticized the Mueller probe, is now overseeing it in place of Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinWashington still needs more transparency House Judiciary to probe DOJ's seizure of data from lawmakers, journalists The Hill's Morning Report - Biden-Putin meeting to dominate the week MORE.
The Senate Judiciary Committee passed legislation that would protect Mueller, or any other special counsel, in the event he is fired, but the bill has stalled amid opposition from GOP leadership.
The bill would codify Justice Department regulations that say only a senior department official could fire Mueller or another special counsel.
It would give a special counsel an "expedited review" of their firing. If a court determines that it wasn't for "good cause," the special counsel would be reinstated.
Updated at 12:59 p.m.