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

Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsSunday shows preview: Washington heads into multi-day shutdown Overnight Energy: Senators introduce bipartisan carbon tax bill | House climate panel unlikely to have subpoena power | Trump officials share plan to prevent lead poisoning Flake to co-introduce bipartisan climate bill MORE (D-Del.) on Thursday said that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOcasio-Cortez rips Trump in first House floor speech: 'It is not normal to shut down the government when we don’t get what we want' Overnight Health Care: Dem chair plans hearing on Medicare for all | Senate GOP talks drug prices with Trump health chief | PhRMA CEO hopeful Trump reverses course on controversial pricing proposal Supporters leave notes on plaque outside Ocasio-Cortez's office MORE (R-Ky.) is running interference for President TrumpDonald John TrumpPentagon update to missile defense doctrine will explore space-base technologies, lasers to counter threats Giuliani: 'I never said there was no collusion' between the Trump campaign and Russia Former congressmen, RNC members appointed to Trump administration roles MORE on a bill that would protect special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe 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 GrahamCentrist efforts to convince Trump to end shutdown falter Overnight Defense: Four Americans killed in Syria suicide attack | State of the Union becomes latest shutdown flashpoint | Missile defense review on track for Thursday release White House condemns 'terror attack' that killed US troops in Syria MORE (R-S.C.), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisCentrist efforts to convince Trump to end shutdown falter GOP reasserts NATO support after report on Trump’s wavering Leaders nix recess with no shutdown deal in sight MORE (R-N.C.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerGillibrand and Booker play 'How Well Do You Know Your Co-Worker' game amid 2020 speculation The Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s attorney general pick passes first test 5 takeaways from Barr’s testimony MORE (D-N.J.), and passed the Judiciary Committee in April.

Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump eyes wall money options as shutdown hits 21 days Poll: Sanders most popular senator, Flake least CBS News in talks to hire Flake: report 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.