U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) on Friday reiterated her calls for the Senate to pass a bill protecting special counsel Robert Mueller from being unduly fired by President Donald Trump or any other surrogate in the Department of Justice.
“It is imperative that special counsel Robert Mueller be allowed to complete his investigation into Russian influence efforts during the 2016 elections,” Collins said in a statement earlier in the day, according to reporting from The Hill.
Her call for such a bill comes just two days after former Attorney General Jeff Sessions was forced to resign from the DOJ. Sessions’s role in the Mueller investigation was itself minimal. He had recused himself from overseeing the inquiry, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had assumed those duties in his stead.
Now that Sessions is out, the man temporarily replacing him, acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who Trump appointed on the same day, presumably takes on the supervisory role over the investigation. Collins is worried about Whitaker taking on that role due to several disparaging comments he’s made in the past that demonstrate he has intense biases against the investigation.
“For these reasons, I believe that we should bring to the Senate floor legislation that would put restrictions on the ability of President Donald Trump to fire the special counsel,” Collins explained. “Senate debate and passage of this bill would send a powerful message that Mr. Mueller must be able to complete his work unimpeded.”
Whitaker has called for Rosenstein in the past to rein in Mueller’s work, suggesting that the special counsel needed to narrow his investigation, according to reports from CNN. As it stands currently, Mueller has the ability to take the investigation into any direction that warrants further scrutiny if something suspicious or criminal comes about, even if it’s unrelated to Russia meddling.
In 2017, Whitaker also expressed hopes that Sessions would take actions that “reduces (Mueller’s) budget so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt.”
Despite these comments from Whitaker, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said no such vote is needed at this time, and that Mueller’s work will not be interfered with by the president.
“The Mueller investigation is not under threat. The president said repeatedly that he’s not going to dismiss the Mueller investigation. He’s said repeatedly it’s going to be allowed to finish.”
Yet Trump himself made comments that seem to contradict the assurances McConnell sought to make. On August 1 of this year, for instance, Trump sent out a tweet that all-but demanded Sessions end the Russia probe altogether.
“Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further,” Trump wrote at the time.