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

Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsMeet the dog and 'sea turtle' who launched campaigns for office Senators demand briefing on Trump's decision to withdraw from Syria 2020 Democrats push for gun control action at forum MORE (D-Del.) on Thursday said that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFurious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria Republicans wrestle with impeachment strategy Mattis warns 'ISIS will resurge' without U.S. pressure on Syria MORE (R-Ky.) is running interference for President TrumpDonald John TrumpWHCA calls on Trump to denounce video depicting him shooting media outlets Video of fake Trump shooting members of media shown at his Miami resort: report Trump hits Fox News's Chris Wallace over Ukraine coverage MORE on a bill that would protect special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerFox News legal analyst says Trump call with Ukraine leader could be 'more serious' than what Mueller 'dragged up' Lewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network 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 GrahamFurious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria Democrats to offer resolution demanding Trump reverse Syria decision Army officer calls Syria pullback 'a stain on the American conscience' MORE (R-S.C.), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisTillis says impeachment is 'a waste of resources' GOP requests update on criminal referrals prompted by 2018 Kavanaugh probe The Hill's Campaign Report: Warren, Sanders overtake Biden in third-quarter fundraising MORE (R-N.C.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerRepublicans wrestle with impeachment strategy O'Rourke campaign says path to victory hinges on top 5 finishes in Iowa, Nevada O'Rourke raises .5 million in third quarter MORE (D-N.J.), and passed the Judiciary Committee in April.

Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeHow to survive an impeachment Are Senate Republicans certain that Trump can return to office? Jeff Flake calls Trump's language 'authoritarian' 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.