Congress Must Protect Mueller's Trump-Russia Investigation

(Bloomberg View) -- It's well past time for Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to stand up and protect special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian sabotage of the 2016 presidential election.

McConnell this week said that even if a bipartisan bill to protect Mueller emerges from the Senate Judiciary Committee, he will block a vote. “We’ll not be having this on the floor of the Senate," he said.

The proposed bill, authored by two Democrats and two Republicans, provides for expedited judicial review in the event the special counsel is fired. It would allow the special counsel to challenge any termination that he believes was not executed for good cause.

McConnell and Ryan, whose respective bodies have exercised almost no oversight of an executive branch that careens from one scandal to the next, publicly insist that there is no reason to shield Mueller's investigation into relations between President Donald Trump's allies and foreign operatives.

This is nonsense. After numerous indictments and guilty pleas already obtained by Mueller, and a related investigation that led to a raid last week by federal agents on the office, home and hotel room of Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, the president continues to attack the Mueller investigation, calling it  "fake and corrupt" and a "total witch hunt."

Trump long ago sought to derail Mueller, ordering White House counsel, Donald McGahn, to tell the Justice Department to shut down the investigation. McGahn rightly refused.

Trump's eagerness to escape scrutiny does point to a problem with legislation to protect Mueller: The president would likely veto any such measure. Nonetheless, as he rages against the rule of law, Congress should acknowledge its duty to uphold it. One veto-proof way would be a sense-of-Congress resolution to put lawmakers on record in support of letting Mueller complete his investigation. Such resolutions have been used in the past to signal congressional resolve. Though lacking the power of law, a resolution would draw a line and warn the president not to cross it.

Enough with the stalling. Failure to act could be the prelude to a constitutional crisis. Ryan and McConnell must protect Mueller's investigation.

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