U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says special counsel Robert Mueller is in no danger, so the Senate does not have to pass a bill that would protect him from premature firing. The majority leader repeated this message last week as he blocked that bill from coming to a vote.
One way to look at this is that McConnell has been right so far: The Senate has not moved the bill since it passed the Judiciary Committee in April, and President Donald Trump still has not fired Mueller. The other view is that Trump is moving ever closer to, if not firing Mueller, then clipping his wings.
Now more than ever, the president must get the message: Hands off the special counsel.
The warning signs are there for anyone to see. Trump just fired Jeff Sessions as attorney general because Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe instead of protecting the president from it. Trump tapped — probably illegally — Matthew Whitaker to be an interim replacement. Whitaker is a partisan mediocrity whose appeal seems to be that he attacked Mueller’s investigation before joining the administration.
Trump also ratcheted up his attacks on Mueller. “The inner workings of the Mueller investigation are a total mess,” he wrote on Twitter, claiming that investigators “have gone absolutely nuts,” “are screaming and shouting at people” and are part of “A TOTAL WITCH HUNT LIKE NO OTHER IN AMERICAN HISTORY!”
It was unclear where the president got his allegations about the Mueller team’s behavior — perhaps Whitaker told him something? — but the fact that Trump made at least one obviously false claim in the rest of his Twitter tirade suggests he might have made it all up.
McConnell is wrong to dismiss the danger of an unstable presidency. True, it is unlikely the lame-duck GOP House would adopt a Mueller protection bill as one of its last acts before handing the majority to Democrats. But the Senate should act anyway.
As Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said last week, “Senate debate and passage of this bill would send a powerful message that Mueller must be able to complete his work unimpeded.” Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., has offered more than words, saying that he would refuse to support confirming any more of Trump’s judicial nominees until the Senate considered the bill.
So far, no other Republican has joined him.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE WASHINGTON POST