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 McConnellDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' Pelosi asks Democrats for 'leverage' on impeachment Democrats press FBI, DHS on response to white supremacist violence MORE (R-Ky.) is blocking a vote on a bill to protect special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerMueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony MORE in order to shield President TrumpDonald John TrumpDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' EU says it will 'respond in kind' if US slaps tariffs on France Ginsburg again leaves Supreme Court with an uncertain future 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 GrassleyThe road not taken: Another FBI failure involving the Clintons surfaces White House denies exploring payroll tax cut to offset worsening economy Schumer joins Pelosi in opposition to post-Brexit trade deal that risks Northern Ireland accord 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 hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes The Hill's Morning Report - Trump on defense over economic jitters Democrats keen to take on Cornyn despite formidable challenges 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.