WASHINGTON- Senate Judiciary Committee members Tom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) introduced legislation Thursday that would negate President Donald Trump’s ability to fire Independent Counsel Robert Mueller III.
The Special Counsel Integrity Act would delegate termination of the person occupying that office to a Senate-confirmed Attorney General. The legislation also would allow the terminated special counsel to challenge their dismissal in court before a three-judge panel.
The panel would be authorized to reinstate the special counsel if they deemed the termination to have been carried out in bad faith.
The senators in a joint-press release Thursday both said the legislation is necessary to protect the integrity of Muller’s investigation.
“A back-end judicial review process to prevent unmerited removals of special counsels not only helps to ensure their investigatory independence, but also reaffirms our nation’s system of check and balances,” Tillis said.
“Ensuring that the special counsel cannot be removed improperly is critical to the integrity of his investigation,” Coons said.
Muller is investigating alleagations of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and high-ranking Russian officials.
House and Senate committees also are investigating the collusion allegations as well as Russia’s attempt to manipulate the outcome of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.
Trump has referred to Muller’s investigation as a “witch-hunt.” The President also has publicly criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions for having recused himself from the Justice Department’s Trump-Russia probe.
Political pundits have speculated that Trump’s decision to publicly undermine Sessions is a thinly-veiled attempt to bully the attorney general into resignation so that the President can replace Sessions with an appointee who would likely obey an order to fire Mueller.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Muller in May following the political fallout that ensued in the aftermath of Trump’s decision to fire then-FBI Director James Comey.