Coons: McConnell is trying to shield Trump by blocking Mueller protection bill

Coons: McConnell is trying to shield Trump by blocking Mueller protection bill
© Greg Nash

Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.) said Wednesday that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Threat of impeachment takes oxygen out of 2019 agenda Chances for disaster aid deal slip amid immigration fight MORE (R-Ky.) is blocking a vote on a bill to protect special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerHouse progressive: Pelosi 'has it right' on impeachment Democrats talk subpoena for Mueller Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna: 'I'm not there yet' on impeachment MORE in order to shield President TrumpDonald John TrumpFeinstein, Iranian foreign minister had dinner amid tensions: report The Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Harris readies a Phase 2 as she seeks to rejuvenate campaign MORE

Asked on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" if he thought McConnell was taking this step to protect Trump, Coons replied, "Yes."

"If I were majority leader of the Senate I’d be gravely concerned that there is an imminent constitutional crisis," Coons said, referring to Trump's comments regarding Mueller's investigation into Russia's election interference.

"Instead he is going to come to the floor likely and block us today," he added. "I'm puzzled by why the majority leader continues to do the president’s bidding on this.”

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Coons is co-sponsoring a bill with Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) to protect the Mueller probe. The senators are expected to try and force a floor vote on the matter on Wednesday. 

The bill would mandate that only a senior Justice Department official can fire Mueller or another special counsel and allow for a expedited court review of such a firing. It could require that a special counsel who was not fired "for good cause" be reinstated.

Coons noted that there are some Republican senators that have voiced "constitutional concerns about this bill." 

"I strongly disagree," he said. "I wouldn’t be sponsoring a bill that I thought had any constitutional infirmities."

He added that he's "struck by the fact" that the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyThreat of impeachment takes oxygen out of 2019 agenda Trump mulling visit to ethanol refinery later this month: report Nursing home care: A growing crisis for an aging America  MORE (R-Iowa), and several other leaders in the Republican caucus voted for the bill in the committee. 

But McConnell has consistently opposed bringing the measure for a floor vote. He said earlier this month that legislation protecting the special counsel wasn't necessary because the Mueller investigation was "not under threat."

“I think, frankly, at the end of the day, McConnell has gotten reassurances from the president that he won’t act against Mueller, but those assurances are undermined every single day," Coons said. 

Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Bipartisan House bill calls for strategy to protect 5G networks from foreign threats Collins offering bill to boost battery research as GOP pushes energy 'innovation' MORE (R-Texas) said Tuesday that GOP lawmakers were exploring a way to have a vote on the bill due to pressure Flake has put on the GOP over judicial nominations.

Coons has told reporters that he is "confident" the bill would receive the 60 votes needed for it to pass.