Incoming House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler of New York plans to re-introduce legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller on Thursday, the first day of the new Congress, two sources familiar with the matter told CNN.
The bill, which Nadler also introduced in this Congress as a companion measure to Senate legislation, is likely to be one of the early priorities for Democrats as they retake control of the House on Thursday. The legislation would provide recourse for Mueller and future special counsels to challenge any firings in the court system.
As Judiciary chairman, Nadler is one of the key Democrats poised to investigate President Donald Trump, and his committee would be in charge of any impeachment proceedings. But he and other Democratic leaders have talked up their desire to focus on legislation in the new Congress, including bills like the special counsel legislation.
Democrats are likely to push Senate Republicans take up the bill, though that appears unlikely at this point. The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced legislation to protect Mueller last year under a deal struck by outgoing Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley and the bill’s bipartisan Senate authors. But the bill never moved to the Senate floor, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said it was unnecessary.
McConnell didn’t budge, either, after retiring Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona announced in November he would oppose all judicial nominees unless the Senate voted on the bill.
Questions about interference with Mueller’s investigation have been lingering for more than a year, but they spiked after Trump fired Jeff Sessions as his attorney general in November, replacing him with acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, who has publicly criticized the special counsel probe.
Senate Democrats are sure to press Trump’s attorney general nominee William Barr about allowing Mueller to finish his investigation unimpeded during Barr’s confirmation hearing scheduled for January 15-16.