AP NEWS

Senate could vote on Mueller protection bill before end of the year

November 27, 2018

The Senate may still vote on legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller from the possibility of being removed by President Trump before the end of the year in exchange for confirming more of the president’s judicial nominees, the second-ranking Republican said Tuesday.

Holding that vote could clear a potential logjam for the GOP, which wants to push through a number of additional federal judges but faces resistance from Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican who has vowed to oppose all of the judges until he secures a vote on the special counsel bill.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, Republicans’ chief vote-counter, told conservative radio show host Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday that the GOP can confirm judges on the floor without Mr. Flake, but they need his vote to clear other nominees through the Judiciary Committee.

“If we can have a relatively expedited up-or-down vote, and my preference is that it fail, but at least he will have had his shot,” Mr. Cornyn said.

He said there are “some serious constitutional issues” with the bill, which would limit the president’s powers to fire a special counsel.

Momentum for the bill heightened earlier this month after Attorney General Jeff Sessions was forced out and Mr. Trump designated Matthew Whitaker, a onetime critic of the special counsel, as the acting attorney general. In that post, he now has oversight of Mr. Mueller.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, has signaled he doesn’t think there’s a need for the bill, saying he has seen no signs that Mr. Trump is angling to fire Mr. Mueller.

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