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 FlakePoll: 33% of Kentucky voters approve of McConnell Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Live coverage: Trump delivers State of the Union 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 McConnellKids confront Feinstein over Green New Deal Trump selects Kelly Craft for United Nations ambassador Union leader says Green New Deal would make infrastructure bill ‘absolutely impossible’ MORE (R-Ky.), who has argued the legislation isn't needed because he doesn't believe President TrumpDonald John TrumpAverage tax refunds down double-digits, IRS data shows White House warns Maduro as Venezuela orders partial closure of border with Colombia Trump administration directs 1,000 more troops to Mexican border 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 LeeThe Hill's Morning Report — Emergency declaration to test GOP loyalty to Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump escalates fight with NY Times The 10 GOP senators who may break with Trump on emergency 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.