Legislation that would protect special counsel Robert Mueller made it out of committee on Thursday following a bipartisan vote, but the chances the bill ever receives a vote on the Senate floor remain slim despite calls from Democrats.
In a 14-7 vote, four Republicans joined all the committee's Democrats in favoring the bill - including Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona.
"Because special counsel investigations only occur where there is a conflict of interest within the executive branch, special counsel investigations are usually matters of great national concern", he said in a statement.
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The vote marked the first time lawmakers advanced legislation to protect Mueller as he investigates potential Russia's interference in the 2016 USA presidential election. The designation, first reported by The Washington Post and confirmed by The Associated Press, has raised questions about what legal threat Trump personally faces from the special counsel and whether it has any impact on his decision to sit for an interview with prosecutors. One senator who opposed the bill, Sen.
The lawmakers also approved an amendment Grassley crafted that would require Congress to be notified when a special counsel is appointed or removed as well as provide a report when an investigation concludes. A previous version of that amendment almost derailed committee passage of the bill, but Grassley was able to come to a compromise with Democrats to win their support.
For weeks now, President Donald Trump's aides have dropped hints that the president is considering firing Mueller, and that Trump believes he has the authority to do so. Both senators voted against it in committee. Yet McConnell has said that he doesn't think Trump would actually fire Mueller. In the final version, lawmakers will only be notified when the special counsel commences and finishes an investigation, or - in the event a special counsel is terminated - 30 days before the special counsel is given notice.
In opposing the bill, senators Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch said it was unconstitutional and unnecessary because Trump already knows that he would face political ruin if he fired Mueller. Should the court find that the firing was not for good cause, the special counsel must return to their job.