Bill to protect Mueller blocked in Senate

Legislation protecting special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSchiff: Trump acquittal in Senate trial would not signal a 'failure' Jeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay MORE from being fired was blocked in the Senate on Wednesday.

Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeThe Hill's 12:30 Report: House managers to begin opening arguments on day two Flake: Republicans don't speak out against Trump 'because they want to keep their jobs' GOP senator calls CNN reporter a 'liberal hack' when asked about Parnas materials MORE (R-Ariz.) asked for consent to bring the legislation, which has stalled after being passed in the Judiciary Committee in April, to the Senate floor for a vote.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSchumer: Trump's team made case for new witnesses 'even stronger' Trump, Democrats risk unintended consequences with impeachment arguments CNN's Axelrod says impeachment didn't come up until 80 minutes into focus group MORE (R-Ky.) blocked his request.

Under the Senate's rules, a senator can come to the Senate floor and ask for consent to get a vote or pass a bill. Any one senator can block their request.

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McConnell didn't explain his move from the floor but it came hours after he told reporters that he believed that Mueller should be able to finish his investigation and that he didn't believe the special counsel was in danger of being fired. 

"There's been no indication ... that Mueller investigation will not be allowed to finish and it should be allowed to finish. We know how the president feels about the Mueller investigation but he's never said he wants to shut it down," McConnell told reporters during a press conference. 

Flake, speaking after McConnell's objection, knocked President TrumpDonald John TrumpKaine: Obama called Trump a 'fascist' during 2016 campaign Kaine: GOP senators should 'at least' treat Trump trial with seriousness of traffic court Louise Linton, wife of Mnuchin, deletes Instagram post in support of Greta Thunberg MORE's rhetoric on the Mueller probe, which is investigating Russia's election interference and potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

"With the firing of the attorney general ... the president now has this investigation in his sights and we all know it," Flake said from the Senate floor.

He added that Trump had accused Mueller of a witch hunt "without basis or fact."

"How such an investigation can be the cause of controversy is beyond me. ...[And] presidents do not get to determine what gets investigated and what and who does not," Flake said.

Democrats, and some Republicans, have called for the legislation to be passed in the wake of Trump ousting Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsLawmaker wants Chinese news outlet to register as foreign agent Trump-aligned group launches ad campaign hitting Doug Jones on impeachment ICE subpoenas Denver law enforcement: report MORE last week and replacing him with acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, Sessions's former chief of staff. 

Flake indicated on Wednesday that he believed Whitaker should recuse himself and should not have been put in the role to begin with. 

"Yes. Yes, well I think he shouldn't be in that position at all. To have oversight over the investigation, that's what seems unconstitutional," Flake said. 

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 DOJ official can 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.

 
"This would be an easy step to take. It is a bipartisan bill that has been ready for floor action for months," Coons said at a press conference with Flake after the floor drama. "[But] it's clear that there's an unwillingness to act." 
 
Coons as well as Sens. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisProgressive group launches campaign targeting vulnerable GOP senators on impeachment Senate braces for bitter fight over impeachment rules Juan Williams: Counting the votes to remove Trump MORE (R-N.C.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerSenate Dems to Pompeo: Comments about NPR reporter 'insulting and contemptuous' Black caucus in Nevada: 'Notion that Biden has all of black vote is not true' The Hill's 12:30 Report: House managers to begin opening arguments on day two MORE (D-N.J.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for week two of impeachment trial Trump defense team signals focus on Schiff Trump legal team offers brisk opening defense of president MORE (R-S.C.) crafted the special counsel legislation.
 
Flake warned on Wednesday that he and Coons will come back to the Senate floor to again request that it get a vote and that he will oppose any judicial nominations until it does. 
 
"I can't think of values held more dear than the independence of our judicial system and an electoral system free of malign influence, either foreign or domestic. When I think of the things that we hold most dear, those things are at the top of the list. It is our sworn oath to keep it that way," Flake said from the Senate floor. 
 
This story was updated at 5:17 p.m.