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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 CollinsBiden officials hold call with bipartisan group of senators on coronavirus relief plan The Hill's Morning Report - Biden's crisis agenda hits headwinds GOP senators say only a few Republicans will vote to convict Trump MORE (Maine), a leading moderate Republican voice, on Sunday said that passing a bill to protect Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump MORE would send a “very strong message” to President TrumpDonald TrumpMore than two-thirds of Americans approve of Biden's coronavirus response: poll Sarah Huckabee Sanders to run for governor Mexico's president tests positive for COVID-19 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 RosensteinRosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' Comey argues Trump shouldn't be prosecuted after leaving Oval Office Trump turns his ire toward Cabinet members 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.