Aug 03 2017

Senators Introduce Legislation To Protect Special Counsel From Political Interference

Legislation would place a judicial check on the executive branch's ability to remove special counsel

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) today introduced bipartisan legislation that would create a judicial check on the executive branch’s ability to remove a special counsel. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) are cosponsors of the effort.

The Special Counsel Independence Protection Act (SCIPA) ensures that any action by the Attorney General or Acting Attorney General to remove a special counsel from office must first be reviewed by a panel of federal judges.

“Checks and balances have served the country well for the past two hundred years.  Our legislation would allow judicial review of the firing of any special counsel that was impaneled to look at the President or their team – regardless of party. I think this is a good check and balance, both for today and in the future. We should all be interested in making sure that special counsels have oversight. Special counsels must act within boundaries, but they must also be protected. Our bill allows judicial review of any decision to terminate a special counsel to make sure it’s done for the reasons cited in the regulation rather than political motivation. I think this will serve the country well. I look forward to working with my Democratic and Republican colleagues to make this law,” said Senator Graham.

"A special counsel's duty is to follow the facts and the law wherever that leads,” Senator Booker said. “They should never be subjected to interference or intimidation because of where an investigation takes them. This bill would subject any decision to fire a special counsel to a review by a panel of federal judges, ensuring any removal is for legitimate reasons instead of political motivations."

“The President and his White House want nothing more than to end Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation and avoid the consequences it may yield.  This bill would ensure they do not.  It also sends a signal to the President:  that Congress will not tolerate the executive ignoring our Constitution, and obstructing the work of the Department of Justice and our judicial system,” said Senator Whitehouse.  “The American people must be able to trust that Special Counsel Mueller can follow the facts wherever they lead.  We will ensure that they can.”

“This measure seeks to forestall a potential constitutional crisis raised by President Trump’s ominous ongoing threats of improperly firing the current special counsel,” said Senator Blumenthal. The specter of Presidential action against Robert Mueller – designed to stop or stymie a vitally necessary criminal investigation of the President himself – makes safeguarding the special counsel urgently necessary. Congress must act, right away, to check this potential Presidential abuse of power. Even the threat of such political interference, constituting potential obstruction of justice, undermines the special counsel’s investigation. Only judicial review can check such possible abuse and eliminate any doubt about special counsel’s ability to hold accountable all lawbreakers. Make no mistake: this investigation will continue and conclude fairly and fully.”

SCIPA ensures that any special counsel may only be removed by the Attorney General after petitioning a federal court to establish that there was or is misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or other good cause for removal.

Full text of the bill is attached and can be found here.