Executive Branch

Two bipartisan bills would prevent Trump from firing special counsel without cause

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Preisdent Donald Trump/Evan El-Amin (Shutterstock.com)

Two bipartisan bills introduced in the Senate would make it more difficult for President Donald Trump to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, who has reportedly impaneled a grand jury in the investigation of Russian influence.

Both bills would require panels of three federal judges to review a firing decision, though they differ on when the review takes place, the Washington Post reports. Both bills would effectively limit the president’s authority to fire special counsels, which became an executive branch decision after Congress let an independent counsel law expire in 1999, the story explains.

Because Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused in the Russia probe, Trump could fire Mueller by replacing Sessions with a new attorney general who would obey a firing order, or by ordering Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to fire Mueller. If Rosenstein quit rather than obey, Trump could order the associate attorney general to fire Mueller.

One of the bills was introduced by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., report the Washington Post, BuzzFeed News and The Hill. It would require the three-judge panel to review a decision by the attorney general to fire a special counsel before the decision takes effect. The special counsel couldn’t be removed absent a finding of good cause, including misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest and violation of Justice Department policies. Any appeal would go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The other bill was introduced by Sens. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and Christopher Coons, D-N.J. It would let the firing proceed, but the special counsel could appeal the decision to the judicial panel. The bill also specifies that removal can only be for good cause, and that an appeal goes to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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