Despite Assurances From Mitch McConnell, More Protections Are Needed For Special Counsel [Opinion]

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) believes that the investigation looking into Russia meddling in our elections is safe-and-sound, and that the threat of President Donald Trump finding ways to obstruct it are overblown.

He’s wrong.

McConnell recently defended the appointment of acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker following the resignation of Jeff Sessions from that position — an appointment which may be unconstitutional. Any personnel who presumes over duties of a Senate-approved cabinet member must themselves have received Senate confirmation in order to serve in the temporary role, according to reporting from CNN. Whitaker has not.

Regardless, McConnell believes that Whitaker’s time in the position will be short-lived. “I think this will be a very interim AG,” McConnell said, adding that Trump will “pretty quickly” find a permanent person for the job, according to a report published in the St. Louis Dispatch.

McConnell also dismissed any concerns people had voiced regarding the potential for Trump to shut down the Russia inquiry.

“The president has said repeatedly he’s not going to dismiss the [special counsel Robert] Mueller investigation. He’s said repeatedly it’s going to be allowed to finish. That also happens to be my view.”

But we don’t need to speculate on what the president is capable of doing — we’ve heard him say, time and again, that he wants to end the probe now.

Just a few months ago, the president demanded on Twitter that Sessions end the probe himself, an action that would have been egregious given that the attorney general at that time had recused himself from the investigation.

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further,” Trump wrote in the summer of this year, per reporting from the Hill in August.

With Sessions gone, the acting attorney general now takes over the supervisory role of the Russia inquiry — which includes looking into the Trump’s campaign’s possible ties to Russian agents, as well as possible allegations of obstruction of justice by Trump himself.

If Trump had demanded just three months ago that his then-attorney general end the probe, what’s to stop him from now asking his acting-attorney general — who hasn’t recused himself from the investigation — from doing so? It’s a question that every lawmaker should be taking seriously if they care about the independence of the Department of Justice, and the integrity of the FBI investigation.

McConnell seems unconcerned about the matter, however. Asked about potential legislation to protect Mueller’s continued investigation, McConnell responded that, “It’s not necessary. The Mueller investigation is not under threat.”

The majority leader is wrong. He neglects the fact that the investigation has been under threat since day one — since the president himself fired then-FBI Director James Comey for the inquiry going in a direction not to Trump’s liking, according to reporting from NBC News.

McConnell — and other lawmakers who don’t see a need to protect Mueller or the Russia inquiry from being able to carry on without impediment from this president — are doing one of two things. Either they’re being blind to the fact that this president has made such threats in the past, or they’re willfully ignoring it, knowing that it’s a real possibility — but not really caring to do anything to stop it from happening.

Neither of those two options are good for America, nor the ideal of nobody being above the law. McConnell ought to do some real soul-searching, and consider reversing his position on the matter.