Sunday, March 25, 2018

Senator Dan Sullivan On The Checks That Exist On Trump's Possible Firing of Mueller

Just seven days ago I wrote here that people should contact their Congress members and Senators to let them know they should NOT let Trump get away with firing Mueller.  I also sent emails to my representative and senators.

Only four days later I got a reply from Senator Dan Sullivan.  While he doesn't make any commitments, it looks like his staff was prepared on this one.  So I think it's only fair to post his response.
"Thank you for contacting me regarding S.1741, the Special Counsel Integrity Act. I appreciate your thoughts on this issue and welcome the opportunity to respond."
I know this is a form letter from the first line, because I didn't mention S.1741.  I just urged him to make sure  1) Trump knows that Sen. Sullivan supports the Mueller investigation and  2) should Mueller get fired that Sullivan would work to stop Trump.  I didn't offer how, I figured he knew those details better than I did, and he did.

On August 3, 2017, Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced S.1741 to formally establish a process by which the special counsel can challenge their removal. This legislation would allow a special counsel to challenge their removal before a panel of three federal court judges whose decision could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. 
Since President Donald Trump assumed office on January 20, 2017, several news outlets have published allegations that staffers for President Trump had contact with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential campaign. Following these allegations, on May 17, 2017, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller as special counsel. The special counsel is authorized to investigate any possible coordination between the Russian government and the campaign of President Donald Trump, as well as any other matters that arose from this investigation.  
The President does not have the authority to remove Robert Mueller as special counsel; his removal would require the approval of Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein. The special counsel can only be fired for misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or for other good cause, including violation of DOJ policies. Additionally, the special counsel must be notified in writing as to the reason for their dismissal.  [emphasis added]
We need to continue the comprehensive investigations being conducted by both the DOJ, FBI and the Senate Intelligence Committee into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election. As a firm advocate for maintaining proper checks and balances in our government, I will continue to work with and at the same time provide necessary oversight regarding the President’s nominees to ensure that all appointees follow the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law, and that foreign governments do not succeed in their efforts to undermine trust in the U.S. Government—a model of freedom that stands in stark contrast to Russia’s authoritarian regime. [emphasis added, and I'd note that 'both' usually refers to two things not three.]
S.1741 has been referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, where it awaits action. While I am not a member of this Committee, I will be sure to keep your comments in mind as it is discussed in the Senate. 
Thank you again for contacting me on this issue. If you have any more questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me or my staff. My office can be reached at 202-224-3004, or online at

Dan Sullivan
United States Senator 

So here is the official summary of S.1741:
Special Counsel Integrity Act
This bill sets forth requirements and limitations with respect to the discipline or removal from office of a special counsel appointed under Department of Justice (DOJ) regulations.
Specifically, a special counsel may be disciplined or removed only by the personal action of an Attorney General who has been confirmed by the Senate. If the Attorney General is recused from the matter, then a special counsel may be disciplined or removed by the most senior DOJ official who has been confirmed by the Senate and is not recused from the matter.
A special counsel: (1) may only be removed for misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or other good cause, including violation of DOJ policies; (2) must be informed in writing of the specific reason for the removal; and (3) may file an action for judicial review of the removal.
It was introduced, as the letter says, on August 3, 2017 by Senator Them Tillis (R-NC) and referred to the Judiciary Committee.  You have to dig around a bit to find out that Sen. Christopher Coons (D - Del) is the co-sponsor.   It sat there until September 26, where a hearing was held.

That's all that tells us.  Presumably it's been sleeping in that committee ever since, so my Senator says it's out of his hands.

I appreciate that Sen. Sullivan got back to me quickly and gave me some substantive information, but I don't seem much enthusiasm on his part for doing anything.  Though he did vote No on the budget just about the same time. And he does want the Mueller investigation to continue.  What exactly will he do to make sure that happens?

Here's what Vox said about this bill and another similar one back in October and it seems to apply to Sullivan's response:
"Senate Republicans have been coy about whether they would move to insulate Mueller if Trump follows the conservative calls to dismiss the special counsel’s investigation.
But if they’re interested in taking action, they have options already on the table."
If you poke around long enough you start to get stuff.  Here's part of what CT Mirror said on March 19, 2018:
"After Mueller was appointed nearly a year ago to head the investigation into possible ties between the Trump administration and Russia, senators, including Richard Blumenthal, introduced two bipartisan bills last year aimed at protecting a special counsel from political pressure from the White House
The “Special Counsel Integrity Act,” introduced by Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, would allow a special counsel to be fired only for “misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or other good cause, including violation of Justice Department policies.
The “Special Counsel Independence Protection Act,” introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Cory Booker, D-N.J.; and Blumenthal would require a federal judge to first sign off on any action to discipline or fire a special counsel.
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing in September on the two bills, but the legislation has not moved since then. Similar legislation introduced in the U.S. House is also stalled.
When the Senate returns on Tuesday, a push to move the bills out of committee onto the Senate floor is expected."
Let's see if  either of these bills get any new co-sponsors, especially now that Bolton is officially in the administration.

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