Chris Coons urges vote on Mueller bill: ‘Easiest way possible to prevent an entirely predictable constitutional crisis’

Chris Coons urges vote on Mueller bill: ‘Easiest way possible to prevent an entirely predictable constitutional crisis’
© Greg Nash

Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsSenators prepare for possibility of Christmas in Washington during a shutdown Dem senator: Trump 'seems more rattled than usual' Dem: 'Disheartening' that Republicans who 'stepped up' to defend Mueller are leaving MORE (D-Del.) Wednesday urged a vote on a bill he’s co-sponsored to protect special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE from being fired by President TrumpDonald John TrumpREAD: Transcript of James Comey's interview with House Republicans Klobuchar on 2020: ‘I do think you want voices from the Midwest’ Israel boycott fight roils Democrats in year-end spending debate MORE, citing the White House’s unpredictable nature as a reason for his urgency. 

“This is the easiest way possible to prevent an entirely predictable constitutional crisis," he said.

"When I press my friends who are Republican senators and leaders and say, ‘What would we do if he were to abruptly fire Robert Mueller,’ they say, ‘well, it’s not going to happen.’ " Coons said. "This is a simple step. … We could take up and pass this bill in a few minutes this afternoon and I’m confident it would get 60 votes.”

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Coons will join Sens. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeArizona gov taps McSally for McCain Senate seat The Hill's Morning Report — What a shutdown would mean for the government Corker dodges on Trump primary question MORE (R-Ariz.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerKlobuchar on 2020: ‘I do think you want voices from the Midwest’ Klobuchar moves up in Iowa poll of 2020 Dems Harris announces support for White House-backed criminal justice bill MORE (D-N.J.) on the Senate floor to try to force a vote on their bill to protect Mueller.

Flake has threatened to vote against any judicial nominee put forth in the lame-duck Senate session until the bill is voted on, giving Republicans no margin for error in their current 51-49 majority in the Senate and 11-10 majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee, on which Flake sits.

Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynThe Hill's Morning Report — What a shutdown would mean for the government Trump, Dems dig in over shutdown GOP lawmakers distance themselves from ObamaCare ruling MORE (R-Texas) on Tuesday said that GOP lawmakers were exploring the possibility of a vote on the bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellIsrael boycott fight roils Democrats in year-end spending debate Schumer blasts GOP request for immigration 'slush fund' Trump: 'Too early to say' if shutdown will be averted MORE (R-Ky.) has opposed bringing the measure to the floor for a vote.

"We're whipping that to see where people are. I think the leader needs that information to decide how to manage all the competing demands on our time," Cornyn said when asked about discussions within the Republican caucus about the legislation.

Cornyn added Republicans were willing to hold a vote on the legislation "if that's what it's going to take" to move nominees. 

In addition to Flake, several Republican senators, including Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGOP lawmakers distance themselves from ObamaCare ruling The Hill's Morning Report — No deal in sight as shutdown looms Bipartisan senators doubt ruling striking down ObamaCare MORE (Maine), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisSenate votes to overturn IRS guidance limiting donor disclosure GOP tensions running high on criminal justice bill Trump tells McConnell to let Senate vote on criminal justice reform MORE (N.C.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamOcasio-Cortez: By Lindsey Graham's 1999 standard for Clinton, Trump should be impeached Senate votes to end US support for Saudi war, bucking Trump Former FBI official says Mueller won’t be ‘colored by politics’ in Russia probe MORE (S.C.) and Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySenate votes to end debate on criminal justice reform bill Five takeaways from the court decision striking down ObamaCare The Year Ahead: Tough tests loom for Trump trade agenda MORE (Iowa), support giving the legislation a vote on the Senate floor. 

Coons also mentioned acting Attorney General Matt WhitakerMatthew G WhitakerFox's Kilmeade suggests David Bossie, Matthew Whitaker for chief of staff Comey’s confession: dossier not verified before, or after, FISA warrant Flake stands firm on sending a ‘message to the White House’ on Mueller MORE’s past comments criticizing Mueller as another reason to vote on the bill.

“A number of senators of both parties have privately agreed that Whitaker is a less reliable supervisor and may well stumble into interfering with the Mueller investigation or may do it intentionally,” he said.

Whitaker will replace Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay Rosenstein10 pieces of evidence against most diabolical Russian spy ever No glory in James Comey getting away with his abuse of FBI power Mueller’s real challenge MORE in overseeing the probe and has made several comments in the past that were critical of the inquiry.

He touted in a 2017 interview that there was “no collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia, adopting a favorite line from the president and undercutting the reason Mueller was appointed. He also said in 2014 that the courts were intended to be the "inferior" branch of government.

He wrote an op-ed for The Hill in May 2017 criticizing the idea of appointing a special counsel for the DOJ’s investigation.

“Serious, bipartisan congressional investigations into the Russian allegations have been under way for weeks and they have made progress. Hollow calls for independent prosecutors are just craven attempts to score cheap political points and serve the public in no measurable way,” he wrote. 

His past comments led several high-profile Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerMake Trump own the shutdown over his ill-advised border wall More than a tantrum McConnell’s marijuana conundrum: Cory Gardner MORE (N.Y.) and current House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiIsrael boycott fight roils Democrats in year-end spending debate McConnell predicts no shutdown: Trump 'flexible' on border deal Ocasio-Cortez had highest percentage of small donors in midterms: report MORE (Calif.) too call for his recusal.