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

Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsDemocrats want White House hopefuls to cool it on Biden attacks Senators revive effort to create McCain human rights commission Senate Dem to reintroduce bill with new name after 'My Little Pony' confusion MORE (D-Del.) on Thursday said that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellEXCLUSIVE: Trump on reparations: 'I don't see it happening' Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids — Trump issues order to bring transparency to health care prices | Fight over billions in ObamaCare payments heads to Supreme Court Hillicon Valley: Senate bill would force companies to disclose value of user data | Waters to hold hearing on Facebook cryptocurrency | GOP divided on election security bills | US tracking Russian, Iranian social media campaigns MORE (R-Ky.) is running interference for President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew EPA rule would expand Trump officials' powers to reject FOIA requests Democratic senator introduces bill to ban gun silencers Democrats: Ex-Commerce aide said Ross asked him to examine adding census citizenship question MORE on a bill that would protect special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump Schiff says Intel panel will hold 'series' of hearings on Mueller report 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."

ADVERTISEMENT

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 GrahamTrump puts the cart before the horse in Palestine Negotiators face major obstacles to meeting July border deadline Hillicon Valley: Senate bill would force companies to disclose value of user data | Waters to hold hearing on Facebook cryptocurrency | GOP divided on election security bills | US tracking Russian, Iranian social media campaigns MORE (R-S.C.), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisDemocratic challenger leads Tillis by 1 point in North Carolina poll GOP frets about Trump's poll numbers Koch political arm endorses Colorado Sen. Gardner MORE (R-N.C.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBiden to debate for first time as front-runner Rules for first Democratic primary debates announced Press: Democrats form circular firing squad MORE (D-N.J.), and passed the Judiciary Committee in April.

Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeJeff Flake becoming Harvard fellow Democrats needle GOP on standing up to Trump Amash gets standing ovation at first town hall after calling for Trump's impeachment 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.