Mueller protection bill blocked in Senate for third time

Legislation protecting special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE from being fired was blocked in the Senate on Wednesday for a third time in roughly a month.

Retiring GOP Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakePollster says Trump unlikely to face 'significant' primary challenge Trump gives nod to vulnerable GOP Sen. McSally with bill signing Flake opens up about threats against him and his family MORE (Ariz.) asked consent to get a vote on the long-stalled legislation, which passed out of the Judiciary Committee in April.

But Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump, Dems prep for Mueller report's release McConnell touts Trump support, Supreme Court fights in reelection video Why Ken Cuccinelli should be Trump's choice for DHS MORE (R-Ky.), who has argued the legislation isn't needed because he doesn't believe President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Dems demand Barr cancel 'inappropriate' press conference on Mueller report DOJ plans to release 'lightly redacted' version of Mueller report Thursday: WaPo Nadler accuses Barr of 'unprecedented steps' to 'spin' Mueller report MORE will try to fire Mueller, objected.

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The objection all but guarantees the bill won't pass this year, with the Senate poised to wrap up its work for the year as soon as Wednesday.

Flake, who is retiring in January, argued that ensuring Mueller's investigation continues "is critical to upholding public trust in our institutions of government."

The bill "maintains a significant degree of presidential control while protecting the special counsel investigations from being terminated by a president who might feel that he or she is under increasing heat," Flake added.

Flake has previously asked for consent to bring up the bill for a vote twice since mid-November. McConnell objected the first time and Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeDems sound alarm over top DOJ nominee Restore Pell Grant eligibility to people in prison Former Democratic aide pleads guilty to doxing GOP senators attending Kavanaugh hearing MORE (R-Utah) objected late last month.

Under the upper chamber's rules, senators can go to the floor to request a vote or passage of any bill or nomination. But any one senator can block their requests.

Trump has repeatedly lashed out at Mueller's probe, including in a tweet Tuesday calling the investigation a "Fraud and a Hoax which should be ended immediately."

The bill blocked Wednesday would have protected Mueller, or any other special counsel, in the event he is fired.

It would codify Justice Department regulations that say only a senior department official could fire Mueller or another special counsel.

It would also give a special counsel an "expedited review" of their firing. If a court determines that it wasn't for "good cause," the special counsel would be reinstated.