Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said he would support legislation to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s job, after Democrats said they would step up their effort to shield the Russia investigation in light of the appointment of a new acting attorney general.
“If we bring it to the floor I’ll definitely vote on it,” Graham, a South Carolina Republican and a close ally of President Trump, told reporters. “I don’t see any movement to fire Mueller but legislatively it’d probably be good to put it into law for the future.”
Graham’s comments represent a bit of daylight between his support for Mr. Trump and his opposition to the Mueller probe. Graham previously said he does not believe the new Acting Attorney General Mathew Whitaker needs to recuse himself from overseeing the matter.
He told “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan Sunday, “I am confident the Mueller investigation will be allowed to come to a good solid conclusion, that there’ll be no political influence put on Mr. Mueller by Mr. Whitaker to do anything other than Mr. Mueller’s job. I’m confident that Mr. Mueller will be allowed to do his job without interference.”
The Mueller protection bill would give any special counsel a 10-day window to seek review of a firing, and ensure that the person was fired for good cause. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said there is no need for it, but other Republicans, like Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake and Maine Sen. Susan Collins, have called for the bill since Whitaker was appointed.
Flake, in comments yesterday to reporters, reiterated his support for the bill. “The leader has always said there’s no need for this because nobody has been fired, the special counsel is fine, but I don’t think anybody can say that after Jeff Session’s forced removal. It’s not that easy to object to this. But if somebody does we can bring it back up again and again. I think we plan to do so.”
The legislation, which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in April, has gotten some new life as the Senate’s top Democrat, Chuck Schumer, says Democrats will seek to tie it to must-pass legislation if Whitaker did not recuse himself.
Whitaker, a Republican Party loyalist and chief of staff to Sessions, was elevated last week after Mr. Trump forced Sessions out. Mueller’s investigation had been overseen by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein until Sessions’ ouster.