Democrats, on their first day in control of the House, moved to offer protections to special counsel Robert Mueller.
Led by incoming House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., a group of Democrats introduced legislation that would protect Mueller from being fired by President Trump.
Nadler was joined by Democratic Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas and Steven Cohen of Tennessee to introduce the legislation, which codifies existing Justice Department regulation that mandates a special counsel may be removed only for “misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest or other good cause.”
The move comes after newly elected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked if Mueller should abide by Justice Department guidance that states a sitting president can’t be indicted as a result of what the investigation turns up.
“I do not think that that is conclusive,” Pelosi said in the interview with NBC News, which aired early Thursday before she was elected House speaker. “No, I do not.”
The legislation, which is bipartisan and has 123 co-sponsors, does have Senate counterpart. That legislation was passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee in April 2018, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., refused to bring it to the floor for a full vote, despite demands from some Republicans.
House Democrats have said they will use their new leadership roles to make sure that Mueller is protected and whatever report he finishes at the end of his investigation is made public.
Mueller is leading the investigation into Russian election interference and links between the Trump campaign and Moscow since May 2017. Although Trump has routinely characterized the probe as a “witch hunt,” he has yet to fire Mueller or order his removal by the attorney general.
Democrats are still worried that Mueller is in danger, especially as there are signals that the investigation is winding down and a report is coming.
“As the Special Counsel announces new indictments and guilty pleas from Trump's closest allies and associates, it's clear that the threat to the Mueller investigation will only grow stronger,” the three Democratic lawmakers said in a statement Thursday. “Democrats and Republicans in Congress have mentioned their support for the inquiry to continue unimpeded. Now is the time for Congress to finally act and pass this legislation to protect the integrity of the Special Counsel's investigation and the rule of law."
One House Democrat, California's Brad Sherman, said he was going to re-introduce articles of impeachment against Trump, though Pelosi has said she believes it's too early to discuss such an effort.
Rep. Adam Schiff, whom Pelosi tapped to head the Intelligence Committee on Thursday, said last month that he will compel publication of Mueller’s report in some form. Schiff, D-Calif., said Thursday when asked about impeachment that House Democrats should wait to see the report before “we have any discussions of what the consequences should be.”