Senator Lindsey Graham said Thursday that any attempt by President Trump to remove special counsel Robert Mueller “could be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency,” and unveiled plans for legislation that would make it much harder for any special counsel to be fired.
“We need a check and balance here,” the South Carolina senator told reporters.
Graham said he intends to introduce his bill next week with the support of “all” the Democrats and some Republicans. It would require “judicial review” if a special counsel is fired while investigating the president or his staff. “Judges will have to look and see if the reasons stated meet the statutory definitions,” he said.
Trump currently has the power to get rid of Mueller, but it’s indirect. By statute, the ability to fire a special counsel sits with the attorney general. Since Jeff Sessions has recused himself from all matters Russia, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein would have to be the one to fire Mueller. If Rosenstein refused, Trump could just fire him and find someone who would do the deed.
If Graham’s bill makes it through both the House and Senate, it would mark the second high-profile instance of Congress showing at least some willingness to constrain Trump’s power. The first will arrive on Trump’s desk any day now in the form of a bill that slaps new sanctions on Russia and removes his power to remove those sanctions without congressional approval.
While speaking to reporters, Graham also weighed in on Trump’s ongoing “effort to marginalize and humiliate” Sessions.
“The president has a right to fire anybody in his cabinet. As a human being, I think he should show some respect for Jeff Sessions as a person,” he said. “If you believe Jeff Sessions should be fired, use the power you have and accept the consequences.”
“If Jeff Sessions is fired,” he added, “there will be holy hell to pay.”