GOP senator: Mueller protection bill would send strong message to Trump

GOP senator: Mueller protection bill would send strong message to Trump
© Greg Nash

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTrump pitches new plan to reopen government amid Dem pushback The Memo: Concern over shutdown grows in Trump World Overnight Defense: Trump unveils new missile defense plan | Dems express alarm | Shutdown hits Day 27 | Trump cancels Pelosi foreign trip | Senators offer bill to prevent NATO withdrawal MORE (Maine), a leading moderate Republican voice, on Sunday said that passing a bill to protect Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE would send a “very strong message” to President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump claims media 'smeared' students involved in encounter with Native American man Al Sharpton criticizes Trump’s ‘secret’ visit to MLK monument Gillibrand cites spirituality in 2020 fight against Trump’s ‘dark’ values MORE not to interfere in the special counsel's investigation.

Collins said on ABC's "This Week" that she doubts Trump would sign such a bill into law and, like other moderate Republicans, has questions about its constitutionality, as it would infringe on the president’s power to make personnel decisions.

Collins, however, indicated she might support the bill as a pointed warning to Trump not to fire senior Department of Justice officials with oversight of Mueller’s investigation or otherwise meddle with his probe on possible collusion with Russia during the 2016 election. 

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“It would not hurt if we passed legislation to send a message to the White House that we want the investigation to continue,” Collins said.

Collins warned the bill has flaws, as “the president is never going to sign the legislation” and it raises “some legitimate constitutional concerns.”

But she said it could be worth debating and passing anyway.

“Having the discussion in Congress helps send a very strong message that we do not want Mr. Mueller’s investigation interfered with in any way,” she said.

Republican lawmakers have repeatedly dismissed the possibility that Trump might terminate Mueller but they’ve grown increasingly alert to the possibility in recent days after the FBI raided the home, office and hotel room of the president's longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen.

Trump heightened their concerns last week when White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that the president “certainly believes he has the power” to fire Mueller.

Collins has argued that only Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinBarr’s first task as AG: Look at former FBI leaders’ conduct 5 myths about William Barr William Barr's only 'flaw' is that he was nominated by Trump MORE, who has oversight of Mueller’s investigation, can dismiss Mueller, and believes she has assurances from Rosenstein that he would not do so.

Collins last week warned of serious repercussions if Trump instead sacked Rosenstein to put pressure on Mueller.

“If the president were to fire the deputy attorney general, that would be an extraordinary crisis and a real problem and I just don't think he's going to do it," she told reporters.