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

Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsSenate Dem calls on Trump to apologize for attacks on McCain Sixteen years later, let's finally heed the call of the 9/11 Commission  Senate Dems introduce bill demanding report on Khashoggi killing MORE (D-Del.) on Thursday said that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump blasts McCain, bemoans not getting 'thank you' for funeral GOP senator: Trump's criticism of McCain 'deplorable' McConnell calls McCain a 'rare patriot' and 'American hero' after Trump criticism MORE (R-Ky.) is running interference for President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump mocks wind power: 'When the wind doesn't blow, just turn off the television' Pentagon investigator probing whether acting chief boosted former employer Boeing Trump blasts McCain, bemoans not getting 'thank you' for funeral 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."

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 GrahamMcConnell calls McCain a 'rare patriot' and 'American hero' after Trump criticism The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Dems put manufacturing sector in 2020 spotlight GOP steps up attack over tech bias claims MORE (R-S.C.), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisOvernight Health Care: CDC pushes for expanding HIV testing, treatment | Dem group launches ads attacking Trump on Medicare, Medicaid cuts | Hospitals, insurers spar over surprise bills | O'Rourke under pressure from left on Medicare for all Dem group launches ads attacking Trump's 'hypocrisy on Medicare and Medicaid cuts' Trump keeps tight grip on GOP MORE (R-N.C.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerWarren, Klobuchar call on FTC to curtail use of non-compete clauses Citizens lose when partisans play politics with the federal judiciary Booker opens up about relationship with Rosario Dawson MORE (D-N.J.), and passed the Judiciary Committee in April.

Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeSchumer to introduce bill naming Senate office building after McCain amid Trump uproar Trump keeps tight grip on GOP McSally to back Trump on emergency declaration 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.