Several Republicans, including Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley and Sen. Lindsey Graham, are working to push a bill to the Senate floor that would block President Trump from firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller unless he has good cause to do so. The bill, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already promised will not see a floor vote, has made the left giddy with excitement. They see in this the formation of a Republican alliance against the president and they are valiantly hoping that one of two things will happen: Either a miracle occurs and the bill goes to the floor and passes, forcing Trump himself to veto it, or it fizzles under McConnel’s authority, giving Democrats another card to play for the midterms.
But Sen. Mike Lee (who has never been Trump’s biggest defender on Capitol Hill) says this bill should be blocked not because the special counsel’s investigation has long ceased serving any legitimate purpose, but because it is wholly unconstitutional. In an op-ed piece written this week, Lee agrees that President Trump should not fire the special counsel. But he denies that this opinion gives Congress the right to step in and steal the president’s rightful authority.
“This legislation is unconstitutional, and political expedience can never trump the Constitution,” Lee wrote. “Because the power to prosecute is the quintessential executive authority, any congressional attempt to direct prosecutions — including by limiting the president’s power to fire a prosecutor — is an unconstitutional breach in the separation of powers. All senators swear to uphold the Constitution, and I hope that the full Senate will not pass this legislation, if it advances out of committee.”
The Republican from Utah is correct. Already, the Office of the Special Counsel operates neatly outside the authority of the Attorney General, thanks to Jeff Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from all matters relating to the 2016 election. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is, in theory at least, the only man to whom Robert Mueller is currently accountable. He’s not accountable to Trump, and he’s certainly not accountable to the American people.
This legislation would give him even more independence, essentially turning him (and any future independent prosecutor) into a figure of almost unprecedented power and authority. Considering how much the left whined about Ken Starr in the 1990s, you’d think Democrats would be cautious about handing so much power to an office that can be abused so easily. Shame on any of them that support this bill, and double-shame on the Republicans trying to gain favor with the media by pushing it to the Senate floor.