Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) are introducing a bill that would prevent President Donald Trump from dismissing Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is currently conducting one of the several investigations into supposed collusion between Russia and Trump’s political organization and transition team. According to a statement by Tillis, the “Special Counsel Integrity Act” consists of “bipartisan legislation that supports the integrity of independent investigations by allowing judicial review if a special counsel is removed.”
In the event that a special counsel is removed, read the statement, the bill allows the special counsel to challenge the removal in court before a panel of three federal judges within 14 days of the filing of the action. “The panel of judges would determine whether or not there was good cause for the removal of the special counsel. In the event that the panel of judges finds there was no good cause for the removal, the individual would be immediately reinstated as special counsel.”
Other provisions of the Special Counsel Integrity Act:
"Codifies existing Department of Justice regulations that a special counsel appointed by the department may only be removed for misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or other good cause, like a violation of departmental policies. The Department of Justice must inform the special counsel in writing as to the reason for their removal.
"Ensures that a special counsel appointed by the Department of Justice may be disciplined or removed from office only by the personal action of an Attorney General who has been confirmed by the Senate, or, if the Attorney General is recused from the matter, the most senior Department of Justice official who has been confirmed by the Senate and is not recused from the matter.
"Provides that the legislation is retroactively effective as of May 17, 2017, and applies to any special counsel appointed or after that date."
“It is critical that special counsels have the independence and resources they need to lead investigations,” said Tillis. “A back-end judicial review process to prevent unmerited removals of special counsels not only helps to ensure their investigatory independence, but also reaffirms our nation’s system of checks and balances.” Democrat Sen. Coons said of the bill, “Our constitutional order depends on a system of checks and balances, grounded in the fundamental premise that no one is above the law,” who added, “Ensuring that the special counsel cannot be removed improperly is critical to the integrity of his investigation. I am proud to partner with Senator Tillis on this bipartisan bill to safeguard our democracy.”
Mueller impanels new grand jury
Meanwhile, Mueller has impaneled a new grand jury in his probe, which began work several weeks ago. The Wall Street Journal reported that this means that the probe is gathering steam. “This is yet a further sign that there is a long-term, large-scale series of prosecutions being contemplated and being pursued by the special counsel,” Stephen I. Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas, told the paper.
Ty Cobb, Trump’s special legal counsel, told the WSJ that he was unaware of the impaneling of a new grand jury. “Grand jury matters are typically secret,” Cobb said, who added, “The White House favors anything that accelerates the conclusion of his work fairly. The White House is committed to fully cooperating with Mr. Mueller.”
There is already at least one other grand jury being utilized by federal prosecutors, which is located in Alexandria, Virginia, that is looking into Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser. It is not clear how long Mueller’s probe will last because no deadline was established at the outset. According to Reuters, grand jury subpoenas have been issued in relation to the Russia probe.