Senate committee poised for vote on bill to protect Mueller


WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate Judiciary Committee is poised to vote today on a bill to protect special counsel Robert Mueller's job – legislation that has split Republicans as President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized Mueller's Russia investigation.

Two Republicans and two Democrats introduced the bill earlier this month as Trump ramped up criticism of the special counsel. Mueller is investigating potential ties between Russia and Trump's 2016 campaign as well as possible obstruction of justice by the president.

The measure under consideration would give any special counsel a 10-day window to seek expedited judicial review of a firing and would put into law existing Justice Department regulations that a special counsel must be fired for good cause.

A handful of Republicans have supported it, but most have opposed it, arguing that it is unconstitutional or unnecessary. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has argued Trump won't move to fire Mueller and has insisted he will not have a full Senate vote on the legislation.

Republicans who support the bill could be at risk of angering Trump and some of his supporters they represent. But the four lawmakers who wrote the legislation – GOP Sens. Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Democrats Chris Coons of Delaware and Cory Booker of New Jersey – are hoping to win enough bipartisan support to move it out of committee. Then, they say, they could try and find enough support in the full Senate to persuade McConnell to change his mind.

With most Democrats on board, the bipartisan group has been working in recent days to gather additional Republican votes. They have been negotiating with Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who had floated an amendment that included increased reporting to Congress by the special counsel.

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