Bill shielding Mueller from Trump unlikely

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell exhibited no interest Tuesday in considering legislation shielding the special counsel from Donald Trump, even as Republicans warn the president against interfering with Robert Mueller’s investigation.

McConnell’s remarks came as Trump has continued using Twitter to complain about the continued focus on “phony Trump/Russia” connections, instead of on Hillary Clinton and Democrats. They also came a day after Mueller’s inquiry into Russian meddling during the 2016 presidential race yielded a guilty plea and two indictments of Trump campaign officials.

Two bipartisan bills were introduced months ago that would make it harder for a special counsel to be fired. After an initial flurry of support, the bills have stalled as Trump has softened his public criticism of Mueller.

“We’ve got plenty of things we have to do between now and the end of the year that will take up floor time,” McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday when asked if he’d bring the measures to the Senate floor if Trump impedes Mueller’s work.

At one point, Trump’s legal team looked into potential conflicts surrounding the team Mueller has hired, including the backgrounds of members and political contributions by some members of his team to Clinton.

McConnell said the Senate’s role in the investigation is being performed by the chamber’s Intelligence committee.

“That’s our role in it, and special counsel has his job to do, and we’re going to concentrate on what we’re doing here,” said McConnell.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a brief interview that he’d not asked McConnell to bring the bills protecting Mueller to the Senate floor, saying, “We’ll see what happens.”

Legislation sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., would prevent the firing of any special counsel unless the dismissal was first reviewed by a panel of three federal judges. Legislation co-sponsored by Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., would let any Justice Department special counsel challenge their removal in court.