Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that the Senate would not take up legislation limiting President Trump’s ability to fire special counsel Robert Mueller.
“I’m the one who decides what we take to the floor, that’s my responsibility as the majority leader, and we will not be having this on the floor of the Senate,” he told Fox News.
McConnell’s comments come as Trump has lashed out at Mueller following the FBI’s raid on the offices and hotel room of his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. The raid stemmed, in part, from a referral from Mueller’s team.
A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation last week that would codify that only a senior Justice Department official can fire Mueller, and give Mueller or any other special counsel an “expedited review” of any firing.
If a court determines he wasn’t fired for “good cause” he would be reinstated.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on the legislation by the end of the month and appears to have enough support for the bill to be sent to the Senate floor.
But McConnell has said for months that he does not believe legislation protecting Mueller is necessary. He told reporters last week that he had seen no need to pass such a bill.
“That’s not necessary. There’s no indication that Mueller is going to be fired. I don’t think the president’s going to do that. And just a practical matter even if we passed it, why would he sign it?” McConnell said Tuesday on Fox News.
A small but growing number of GOP senators have signaled they are open to the special counsel legislation, underscoring GOP concern about Trump’s rhetoric targeting Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Rosenstein named Mueller to be special counsel and oversees the probe into the 2016 election and potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.
Even before McConnell’s remarks, the bill faced an uphill climb to passing the Senate, much less becoming law. Senators expect it would ultimately need 67 votes — enough to override a presidential veto.
Most GOP senators have said they do not believe the bill is needed because they don’t think Trump will fire Mueller or have concerns that it wouldn’t be constitutional.
“I don’t think he should fire Mueller and I don’t think he’s going to,” McConnell said, adding that he’s focused on legislation “relevant to moving the ball toward the goal line” on other issues.
The bill also has virtually no chance in the House, where House conservatives are urging Trump to fire top Justice Department officials.