Exactly one day after Democrats won a majority of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, President Donald Trump forced the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Donald Trump had made it quite well known that his displeasure with Jeff Sessions stemmed solely from the fact that Jeff Sessions had recused himself from any himself from any investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections, presumably because Trump wanted Jeff Sessions to either limit the investigations or shut them down altogether. After Jeff Sessions’ recusal, the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, a longtime Republican who was appointed by Trump himself, appointed Robert Mueller, another longtime Republican, to act as special counsel to investigate alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 elections and related matters based on the dismissal of FBI Director James Comey by Donald Trump.
According to official Department of Justice policy and precedent from three Presidents, the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should be named as Acting Attorney General. Donald Trump named Matthew Whitaker instead, who was Jeff Sessions’ Chief of Staff. Matthew Whitaker, unlike Rod Rosenstein, was not confirmed by the Senate to take his job as Chief of Staff to Jeff Sessions, which means that besides violating official Department of Justice policy, this appointment also violates the United States Constitution.
Just why is Donald Trump choosing to defy the official Department of Justice line of succession and defy the United States Constitution to appoint Matthew Whitaker as Acting Attorney General? Because Matthew Whitaker has repeatedly indicated that his loyalty lies with the President instead of Justice.
Donald Trump wants an Attorney General who is loyal to Donald Trump above all else because when Robert Mueller issues the report for the investigation, he does not do so directly to the public or even Congress. If Jeff Sessions was still Attorney General, his recusal meant that Mueller would have issued the report to Rod Rosenstein. But, if an Attorney General is in place who has not recused himself, the report would be issued to this Attorney General instead, and as has already been noted, Matthew Whitaker has no plans to recuse himself from the investigation. Why is this important? Because Rudy Giuliani has already indicated that their plan is to block the Department of Justice from releasing the report.
The whole point behind Donald Trump nominating Matthew Whitaker as Acting Attorney General is to try to stop the Mueller Investigation’s report from ever seeing the light of day, and Donald Trump is evidently so afraid of what will be in that report, that he is willing to violate Department of Justice policy and the Constitution in order to do so.
Senate Democrats are understandably concerned about what looks to be a blatant plan by Donald Trump to interfere with the Mueller investigation, and they have been joined in their concern by Republican Senator Jeff Flake and thousands of protesters who took to the streets across the country Thursday evening. They are all demanding that a vote take place on bipartisan legislation that has been drafted to protect the Mueller investigation.
The only problem: Mitch McConnell is refusing to put the legislation up for a vote.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Friday suggested he would not allow a floor vote on legislation to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian election interference and alleged collusion by the Trump campaign.
“It’s not necessary. The Mueller investigation is not under threat,” McConnell told reporters.
This is not the first time Trump or allies of Trump have come close to taking action to derail the Mueller investigation, nor is it the first time Democrats have urged the Senate to vote on a bill to pass legislation to protect the Mueller investigation.
Yet, a vote has never taken place on this bill, because Mitch McConnell has repeatedly refused to put the bill up for a vote.
On November 3, 2017, three Republican allies of Trump in Congress called upon Robert Mueller to resign, and Trump’s Chief of Staff John Kelly indicated tacit support for their reasoning:
Representatives Matt Gaetz, Andy Biggs and Louis Gohmert accused Mueller of a conflict of interest because he was director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation when former President Barack Obama’s administration approved an agreement allowing a Russian company to buy a Canadian company that owned 20 percent of U.S. uranium supplies.
President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans have been calling for an investigation into the Uranium One deal, amid news of Mueller’s first indictments of Trump associates as the special counsel investigates allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow.
On Monday, the day the indictments became public, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said a special counsel should be appointed to investigate Democrats over the uranium deal.
The very next day, Mitch McConnell refused to support voting on a bill to protect the Mueller investigation:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Saturday that special counsel Robert Mueller is not in need of congressional protection from President Donald Trump.
“I don’t hear much pressure to pass anything,” McConnell told MSNBC’s Hugh Hewitt. “There’s been no indication that the President or the White House are not cooperating with the special counsel.”
Two months later, on January 25, 2018, a report came out that Donald Trump had ordered the White House Counsel Don McGahn (since fired by Trump for cooperating with Robert Mueller) to fire Robert Mueller:
The reports, first by the Times and then others, said Trump backed off on his attempt to fire the man who is investigating him, his election campaign’s Russian contacts and his firings of FBI Director James Comey and National Security Adviser Michael Flynn — but only after lawyer McGahn refused to relay his directive to the Justice Department and threatened to quit if Trump pressed the issue.
Five days later, after renewed calls from Democrats for Mitch McConnell to allow a vote on the bill to protect the Mueller investigation, Mitch McConnell again refused:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday dismissed Democratic calls to take up bipartisan legislation aimed at shielding Robert Mueller from being fired, saying that the special counsel “seems to need no protection.”
McConnell told reporters that he sees no imminent threat to Mueller’s job from President Donald Trump, who has publicly aired frustration with the special counsel’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and potential collusion with Trump campaign allies. Senators have pitched two bipartisan bills designed to prevent Mueller’s firing by Trump, but efforts to combine them have stalled as the GOP professes a continued lack of urgency.
At the moment, McConnell told reporters, “I’m unaware of any effort, official effort, on the part of the White House to undermine the special counsel. And so I don’t feel any particular need to reach out to protect someone who seems to need no protection.”
On April 10, 2018, news came out that Trump had again tried to fire Robert Mueller the preceding December:
Trump reportedly tried to fire Mueller after he became enraged over reports that the special counsel had subpoenaed Deutsche Bank for records on Trump’s finances.
A week later, Mitch McConnell again refused to bring the bill to protect the Mueller investigation up for a vote, even after two Republican Senators had signed onto the bill:
Sens. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican, and Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, introduced the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act, which protects Mueller, including ensure that the special counsel can only be fired for “good cause” by a senior Justice Department official.
McConnell said he won’t bring the legislation to the Senate floor.
“I’m the one who decides what we take to the floor, that’s my responsibility as the majority leader, we will not be having this on the floor of the Senate,” he said.
Besides calling on Mitch McConnell to bring legislation to protect the Mueller investigation up for a vote, it seems like it is about time for Democrats on Capitol Hill to start asking some tougher questions as to just why Mitch McConnell continues to refuse to do so. Mitch McConnell’s continued response that there is no need to protect the Mueller investigation just does not hold water. Does Mitch McConnell really even want the Mueller investigation to be protected?