Senator Blumenthal (D- Conn) confirmed to NBC News that lawmakers are eyeing ways to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s findings if President Trump moves to halt the investigation, either by firing Mueller or by firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. This new effort comes after the bipartisan bill which Blumenthal helped draft passed in the Judiciary committee in April but was prevented from coming to the floor for a vote by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell has stated that there is no point in voting on it because President Trump isn’t going to fire Mueller.
Donald Trump, under investigation by the Special Counsel for ties to Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign, has repeatedly called the investigation a witch hunt. He has tweeted that “he may have no choice but to get involved” and stated in an interview on Fox & Friends (pertinent comments here at around the 13:15 mark) that he may change his mind about getting involved in the Department of Justice he is “disappointed in”. On Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence told NBC News, “In the interests of the country, I think it’s time to wrap it up. I would very respectfully encourage the special counsel and his team to bring their work to completion.”
The focus now, with polls showing Republicans increasingly siding with President Trump over Mueller, is on the possibility that Rod Rosenstein, overseeing the Russia probe after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself, will be fired or resign if asked to fire Mueller. If Rosenstein is replaced with someone who is willing to fire or constrain the investigation, the Democrats, with a few Republicans expressing interest, are preparing a strategy, NBC reports.
“We have to prepare for a direct decapitation attempt, and also for a straitjacket strategy,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a member of the Judiciary Committee. “One thing we’re hoping that the Republicans will agree to is that we must preserve all evidence and all work products in the event of a firing.”
In fact, Trump allies in the House have made repeated demands on Rosenstein and other Justice Department officials to turn over information at the core of Mueller’s probe. And members of the conservative Freedom Caucus have gone so far as to draft articles of impeachment against Rosenstein over his refusal to meet certain demands.
As the minority party with little ability to advance their bills, Democrats have instead begun considering a series of actions they could take if they believe Mueller’s work is under direct threat, starting with building political pressure on the GOP to do more.
The options the Democrats are looking at focus on protecting the findings of the Special Counsel’s team thus far.
According to three people briefed on the discussions, ideas include: Requiring that Congress receive Mueller’s final report; allowing Mueller, in the event he is fired, to release his findings publicly; or allowing him to resign and release his work if he feels his investigation is being improperly stifled.
They are also considering being present at Mueller’s offices, should he be fired, to attempt to protect evidence that might be destroyed. Representative Raskin, from nearby Maryland, could be tasked with standing vigil should President Trump fire Rosenstein or Mueller during a Congressional recess.
For his part, CNN reports that Rosenstein remains fatalistic about his job security as the controversy swirls, as was covered by The News Blender last month. He recently made a statement that the Department of Justice would not be extorted by House Republicans who filed articles of impeachment against him.
Why It Matters
Mueller’s investigation has resulted in 5 guilty pleas, 3 of which are individuals directly related to the Trump Campaign, 1 person sentenced and serving time, 23 defendants, and 75 criminal charges. Calls to end the investigation are premature and politically self-serving at best. Criminal behavior should be found and punished, regardless of political party.
On one hand, we are left with watching the GOP, who staunchly defended Ken Starr’s investigation of Bill Clinton that resulted in the House voting to impeach him, declare a investigation which is revealing numerous crimes over and attempting to impeach the Deputy Attorney General overseeing the probe.
On the other hand, we have the Democrats who did everything in their power to end Ken Starr’s investigation of Bill Clinton now staunchly defending Robert Mueller and demanding transparency for the sake of the nation.
Who is right and who is wrong here?
Those standing for the rule of law, regardless of current or past hypocrisy, are right. No one – as Pence tweeted on October 28, 2016 expressing his and Donald Trump’s support of the FBI reopening the investigation into Hillary’s emails – is above the law. The Dems and the GOP would be doing the nation a favor if they can manage to remember that concept when the roles are inevitably reversed down the road.