Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is working on legislation that would prohibit President Donald Trump from firing special counsel Robert Mueller, he announced on Fox News Thursday afternoon.
“I’m gonna create a statute that would say any time a special counsel is impaneled to investigate the president or their team, a dismissal has to be reviewed by the courts,” Graham said on America’s Newsroom. “That’s what we did in the 1990s as a check and balance, not just against this president, but against all future presidents.”
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) — who had discussed proposing such legislation on MSNBC earlier in the week — is writing the bill with Graham.
Graham — who also criticized Trump for attacking Attorney General Jeff Sessions — may have been referencing the lapsed independent counsel statute of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 in his comments on Thursday. Under the statute, an independent counsel could only be removed via impeachment by congress or by termination by the attorney general “only for good cause,” and the termination of a special counsel would have been subject to judicial review.
The statute expired in 1999 amid concerns that it provided the independent counsel a “blank check” to conduct lengthy, expensive investigations that some regarded as political in nature. Both Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were the subject of probes by independent counsels, which their respective parties each strongly criticized for allegedly overstepping their bounds.
Graham’s office did not immediately respond to a request to confirm that this statute was the “check and balance” the South Carolina Republican was referring to Thursday. A spokesperson for Booker declined to comment, saying that he and Graham were still in the process of writing the bill, but pointed to an interview Booker gave on Tuesday in which he said he would introduce legislation similar to what Graham discussed Thursday.
A law requiring the courts to review Trump’s hypothetical dismissal of Mueller would protect the special counsel, who is leading the FBI probe into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
Trump has been rumored to be considering firing Mueller, but those rumors took on a new life last week when Trump criticized Mueller and left the door open to sacking him during an interview with the New York Times. He said that it would be inappropriate for Mueller to investigate his and his family’s finances and would not say if he’d terminate the special prosecutor for doing so.
“I can’t answer that question because I don’t think it’s going to happen,” Trump said.
Graham on Thursday said that ousting Mueller would mark the “beginning of the end of the Trump presidency.”
Graham told Fox News that he believed the statute would receive bipartisan support.
Matt Mackowiak, a Republican strategist and president of the Potomac Strategy Group, suggested in an email to Mic that Graham likely would get GOP support for such a statute.
“My sense is that President Trump’s comments on Sessions and Mueller in the past two weeks have created a window for legislation like this and Sen. Graham senses that,” Mackowiak said. “Republicans are aligned on a policy agenda with Trump, but they are not aligned when it comes to firing Sessions or Mueller.”
In his America’s Newsroom appearance Thursday, Graham said that he “wants to help the president where I can” and that Trump has been a “good commander-in-chief.” But, Graham said, he “cannot draw a red line as to what the special counsel might do.”
“That’s inappropriate,” Graham said. “The idea that he would be dismissed while investigating the president and his team is unacceptable.”