Lawmakers weigh Plan B to protect Mueller’s work

Trump has kept up his attacks, and on Thursday Vice President Mike Pence joined in calling for an end to the investigation. “It’s time to wrap it up,” Pence told Andrea Mitchell of NBC News.

In a May 7 tweet, Trump insisted Mueller’s team has “conflicts of interest” while again dismissing the probe as a “phony witch hunt.” In an earlier tweet, Trump said he may have “no choice” but to “get involved” in a disagreement between the Justice Department and Congress related to the investigation.

A Rigged System – They don’t want to turn over Documents to Congress. What are they afraid of? Why so much redacting? Why such unequal “justice?” At some point I will have no choice but to use the powers granted to the Presidency and get involved!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 2, 2018

Both Trump and his new legal advisor, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, have also seized on comments by federal Judge T.S. Ellis III last week suggesting Mueller’s pursuit of Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, may be outside the purview of the special counsel.

Lawmakers weigh Plan B to protect Mueller’s work
Lawmakers weigh Plan B to protect Mueller’s work

Trump and Giuliani appear to be floating a trial balloon around the Ellis comments to see how the public would react to a Mueller firing, conservative writer John Podhoretz said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Sen. Coons told NBC News he’s “hopeful that leader McConnell will eventually come to recognize the value … of a bill that strengthens the transparency and reporting of the special counsel and protects future special counsels.”

Republican Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho, a Judiciary Committee member who voted against the original Mueller protection bill, has been receptive to the need for transparency and a report to Congress.

“That is the position I have. I’ve said from the very beginning that the investigation needs to proceed to its final conclusion,” Crapo told NBC News. Nevertheless he said he doesn’t believe Congress needs to take action yet.

‘A Straitjacket Strategy’

In the House, Democrats have already introduced multiple bills that would limit the president’s ability to remove Mueller, and require the preservation of any evidence of misconduct he uncovered in the event he were fired, or his investigation constrained.

“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.

Image: U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff arrives at a press conference
Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, in 2017. Democrats in the House are debating how to protect Robert Mueller if the president tries to fire him. Win McNamee / Getty Images

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.

As they have gamed out potential scenarios they could take in the near term, Raskin could prove a key figure.

If Trump moves against Mueller or Rosenstein during a congressional recess, when lawmakers are scattered across the country, it would be Raskin, whose district is just outside Washington, who could most immediately travel either to the Capitol in an attempt to compel the House into emergency session, or to the Mueller team’s offices to ensure that officials don’t move to destroy documents relevant to Mueller’s probe.

“We’re trying to hope for the best and be prepared for the worst at every turn,” Raskin said. “But I do get a kind of queasy feeling in my stomach right before we leave for our district work period recesses.”

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