GOP Sen. Collins calls for vote on bill to pro­tect Mueller

Leg­is­la­tion would al­low spe­cial coun­sel to fin­ish in­ves­ti­ga­tion

Albuquerque Journal - - NATION - BY ELISE VIEBECK

Sen. Su­san Collins said Fri­day that spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller must be al­lowed to fin­ish his in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion and called for the Se­nate to vote on leg­is­la­tion that would pro­tect him from be­ing fired.

The Maine Repub­li­can said she was “con­cerned” about com­ments made by Act­ing At­tor­ney Gen­eral Matthew Whi­taker, who has crit­i­cized Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion and now over­sees it.

“For th­ese rea­sons, I be­lieve that we should bring to the Se­nate floor leg­is­la­tion that would put re­stric­tions on the abil­ity of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump to fire the Spe­cial Coun­sel,” Collins said in a state­ment.

“Se­nate de­bate and pas­sage of this bill would send a pow­er­ful mes­sage that Mr. Mueller must be able to com­plete his work unim­peded,” she said.

The fu­ture of the Mueller probe is in doubt now that Trump has ousted At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions and re­placed him tem­po­rar­ily with Whi­taker, a po­lit­i­cal loy­al­ist.

Ses­sions had pre­vi­ously re­cused him­self from over­see­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, leav­ing the day-to-day over­sight to Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein.

But while Rosen­stein re­mains in charge of that over­sight, Collins noted, “Mr. Whi­taker has the au­thor­ity to in­ter­vene at any time.”

Whi­taker has no in­ten­tion of re­cus­ing him­self from over­see­ing the probe, peo­ple close to him said.

Collins’ state­ment came af­ter Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., an­nounced that he and Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., would try to force a vote next week on leg­is­la­tion to pro­tect Mueller from be­ing fired.

The bill is not ex­pected to re­ceive a vote as Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., has re­peat­edly called it un­nec­es­sary.

“The pres­i­dent has said re­peat­edly he’s not go­ing to dis­miss the Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” McCon­nell said Fri­day in Ken­tucky.

AN­DREW HARNIK/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Protesters gather in front of the White House in Wash­ing­ton, Thurs­day as part of a na­tion­wide “Pro­tect Mueller” cam­paign.

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