Caricature by DonkeyHotey flic.kr/p/Ct4G4K https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
I’m not a huge Mitch McConnell fan, but yesterday he did something that deserves credit. He announced that the bill crafted by a “bipartisan” group of senators ostensibly protecting special counsel Robert Mueller from being fired would not receive a vote.
There two parties in Washington — the stupid party and the evil party. Every once in a while the stupid party and the evil party get together and do something that is both stupid and evil. In Washington, that is called bipartisanship.
The Senate majority leader said on Tuesday that the bill is “not necessary” and that Trump would never sign it. And though McConnell doesn’t want Trump to fire Mueller, he is making sure that the only viable legislation to offer a backstop for Mueller won’t see the Senate floor.
“I’m the one who decides what we take to the floor. That’s my responsibility as the majority leader and we’ll not be having this on the floor of the Senate,” McConnell told Fox News’s Neil Cavuto on Tuesday afternoon.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer responded that McConnell is making a “mistake.”
“We ought to head off a constitutional crisis at the pass, rather than waiting until it’s too late. I hope the Judiciary Committee moves forward with a bill, and that members of Senator McConnell’s caucus push him to reconsider,” Schumer said.
Indeed, the remarks are a major blow to Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who have teamed with Democrats to come up with a bipartisan compromise that would allow the special counsel 10 days after termination to seek a review of the dismissal. Both senators said in recent interviews that while they believe Mueller won’t be fired, passing the legislation would amount to an important precedent for Trump and future presidents.
Robert Mueller was not appointed under the old “independent counsel” statute, he is a temporary employee of the Department of Justice. He is hired by the attorney general, or the deputy attorney general, and is supervised by them. He can be fired fairly easily because he is not a career civil service employee. Beyond this power grab by the Senate in trying to carve out one particular temp for special treatment, to me it is more than a little unclear on how this would even work. According to Tillis’s draft legislation, if Mueller is fired he can appeal his firing to a three-judge panel. As I pointed out, this type of arrangement which harkens back to the Tenure of Office Act that was used to impeach Andrew Johnson, seems to be a violation of the doctrine of separation of powers. Mueller is not an appointee confirmed by the Senate so his position is much less ambiguous that the situation in the independent counsel law.
If Trump does fire Mueller, the solution is for the House to consider impeachment. It is really that simple. If Tillis and Graham are fearful that Trump might fire Mueller and no one actually cares–which seems to be the unspoken issue in their bill–then that should tell them just how important Mueller was.