Dem Senator: McConnell is running interference for Trump by blocking Mueller bill

Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsSenate includes 0M for mail-in voting in coronavirus spending deal Hillicon Valley: Facebook reports huge spike in usage during pandemic | Democrats push for mail-in voting funds in coronavirus stimulus | Trump delays deadline to acquire REAL ID Democrats press for more stimulus funding to boost mail-in voting MORE (D-Del.) on Thursday said that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Health Care: CDC recommends face coverings in public | Resistance to social distancing sparks new worries | Controversy over change of national stockpile definition | McConnell signals fourth coronavirus bill On The Money: Economy sheds 701K jobs in March | Why unemployment checks could take weeks | Confusion surrounds 9B in small-business loans 13 things to know for today about coronavirus MORE (R-Ky.) is running interference for President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump fires intelligence community inspector general who flagged Ukraine whistleblower complaint Trump organization has laid off over 1000 employees due to pandemic: report Trump invokes Defense Production Act to prevent export of surgical masks, gloves MORE on a bill that would protect special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE's Russia probe.

In an appearance on CNN, Coons said "yes" when he was asked if McConnell blocking a vote on a bill to protect Mueller was to run interference for Trump.

"Yes," the Delaware senator said. "I see no other justification for refusing to bring forward such a simple bipartisan bill that takes existing Department of Justice regulations and strengthens them by putting them in statute."

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The bill would codify regulations that say only a senior Justice Department official could fire the special counsel.

It would also create a 10-day review period during which time a judge would decide if a special counsel’s termination was justified. 

McConnell blocked the bill Wednesday.

He did not explain the decision, but it came hours after he told reporters that he thought Mueller was likely to finish the investigation uninhibited.

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

When asked for comment on Coons's statements Thursday, McConnell's office pointed The Hill to those statements he made to reporters Wednesday.

Mueller is investigating Russia's election interference in 2016 and possible collusion between President Trump's campaign and the Kremlin.

The bill was co-authored by Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham asks colleagues to support call for China to close wet markets Justice IG pours fuel on looming fight over FISA court Trump says he's considering restricting travel to coronavirus 'hot spots' MORE (R-S.C.), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisNorth Carolina Senate race emerges as 2020 bellwether The Hill's Campaign Report: North Carolina emerges as key battleground for Senate control Campaigns pivot toward health awareness as races sidelined by coronavirus MORE (R-N.C.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDemocrats urge administration to automatically issue coronavirus checks to more people Democrats ask EPA, Interior to pause rulemaking amid coronavirus Politicians mourn the death of Bill Withers MORE (D-N.J.), and passed the Judiciary Committee in April.

Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeMcSally campaign to suspend TV ads, canvassing amid pandemic Coronavirus isn't the only reason Congress should spend less time in DC Trump Jr. says he inherited 'Tourette's of the thumbs' from his father MORE (R-Ariz.) on Wednesday said that he will oppose any of Trump's judicial nominees until the bill goes to vote. 

Reports have indicated that Mueller is close to finishing his report for the Russia probe.

The issue has become more heated with Trump's appointment of Matthew Whitaker to be acting attorney general. Whitaker has publicly criticized the Russia investigation.

In his position, Whitaker theoretically has the power to hamper the probe, which Democrats say he is liable to do.

Coons told CNN Thursday that he has seen no signs that Whitaker has done so, but added that any evidence would emerge after it was too late to do anything.

"No, but I wouldn't see that evidence until it was too late," Coons said when asked if any indications had appeared of Whitaker's interference.

"His actions to deny requests for subpoenas or more funding or for an expanded scope, would not be public and would not be reported to the Judicial Committee or the general public unless someone leaked them."

"And if there's one thing that Robert Mueller's investigation has been well known for it's ... that his team has had virtually no leaks in the time that they have been running the investigation."

--Updated at 10:18 a.m.