After Former Senators Call on the Senate to Defend The Rule of Law, Five Ways Congress Can Protect Mueller
In a bipartisan oped for the Washington Post, 44 former Senators today called on the U.S. Senate to defend Robert Mueller, the rule of law, and the Constitution of the United States. The former Senators wrote, “We are at an inflection point in which the foundational principles of our democracy and our national security interests are at stake, and the rule of law and the ability of our institutions to function freely and independently must be upheld.”
Five Steps Congress Can Take To Protect Mueller:
Congress can act now to protect Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation in the following ways:
Support the Bipartisan Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act. Passed out of the Judiciary Committee along bi-partisan lines, the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act has been in limbo since Mitch McConnell refuses to call it to the floor for a vote. Several Republicans including Senators Collins, Gardner, and Graham have voiced support for Mueller — it’s time for them to demand a vote on the legislation.
Demand Commitments from Trump’s Handpicked Attorney General Nominee Bill Barr. Since the appointment of handpicked Trump- loyalist Matt Whitaker as acting attorney general, there have been concerns that the probe will be curtailed from the inside, or that key elements of the investigation will be relayed to the President and his associates. Whitaker once said, “I could see a scenario where Jeff Sessions is replaced, it would recess appointment and that attorney general doesn’t fire Bob Mueller but he just reduces his budget to so low that his investigations grinds to almost a halt.” When the Senate holds hearings for Whitaker’s replacement – Trump-defender Bill Barr – the Senate should not vote to confirm Barr unless he refuses to employ such tactics, commits to protecting Robert Mueller, and supports the release of Mueller’s findings.
Ensure the Full, Public Release of the Mueller Report. Upon the conclusion of the Russia investigation, Congress demand that Mueller’s findings be made available to the American public and to Congress. Former Senate Majority Leaders Bill Frist and Tom Daschle recently recalled the release of the Starr report – the culmination of the years long Whitewater investigation. Daschle and Frist reminded us that Congress, along bipartisan lines, voted for the American public to receive the report in full. This should serve as precedent for today. The President has promised to release counter-report without even seeing a draft of the final Mueller report. Congress should be more concerned than ever about Trump’s ability to manipulate the public’s understanding of Mueller’s findings with his tweets. The American people deserve the same set of facts that President Trump sees – and Congress should vote to make that a reality.
Demand Answers from Trump’s Handpicked Acting AG Matt Whitaker. Whitaker was handpicked by President Trump to be acting attorney general because of his loyalty to Trump and his family, as well as his public statements about how he will undermine Special Counsel Mueller. Whitaker was never confirmed by the Senate so Senators were denied a critical opportunity to vet Whitaker’s many conflicts of interest and judge his public statements. Whitaker is refusing to release the Justice Department’s ethics review and the recommendations for whether Whitaker should step aside from overseeing Mueller. The Senate should demand answers about Whitaker’s ethics recusal, conflicts of interest, and the shadow $1.2 million funneled to the conservative group he ran, as well as a recently completed but unreleased ethics judgment. It could be months until nominee Bill Barr is confirmed – if it all – and until that point Whitaker will have ample time to act on his threats and wreak havoc on the Mueller investigation from the inside of the Justice Department.
Commit to Holding Hearings on Mueller’s Findings. Not only should Congress make sure Mueller’s final report is made public – they can exercise their Constitutional oversight responsibilities and hold hearings on Mueller’s findings. Public hearings will make sure there is accountability if in fact crimes were committed.