McConnell vows to block vote on bill protecting Mueller probe, but Sen. Flake is holding some cards

Senate lawmakers hoping to protect special counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation by passing a bipartisan bill will likely face solid opposition from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The Kentucky Republican told reporters Tuesday he would block a bill, co-sponsored by Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Democrat Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, that would prevent President Trump from firing Mueller, according to the Washington Examiner.

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“This is a solution in search of a problem,” McConnell said. “The president is not going to fire Bob Mueller, nor do I think he should, nor do I think he should not be allowed to finish. We have a lot of things to do to finish up this year without taking votes on things that are completely irrelevant to outcomes.”

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas had indicated that the bill could be brought up for a vote earlier, but McConnell revealed he would reject the effort, something he has already done this month.

Asked if he would block the bill, known as the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act, if senators tried to get a vote on Wednesday, McConnell replied, “I probably would.”

Flake, who had said he would oppose Trump’s judicial nominees until there is a vote on the legislation, had tweeted about his intentions earlier this month.

Flake’s attempt on Nov. 14 to pass the measure with unanimous consent failed when McConnell blocked it.

The lame duck GOP senator from Arizona is an important vote on the Senate Judiciary Committee where Republicans hold a slim majority. Lawmakers are especially advocating for the bill in light of  Trump’s appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general following the departure of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Whitaker, who now oversees the Mueller probe, has been an outspoken and frequent critic of the investigation.

“We’ve got some judges on the calendar now that we can pass even if we don’t have Senator Flake’s support. But we can’t get them out of the Judiciary Committee, so we’re going to be working with Senator Flake to see what he needs in order to lift his hold,” Cornyn said Tuesday on conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt’s radio show. “There is a possibility we will have a vote on the Mueller, so-called Mueller protection bill.”

Flake tweeted again Tuesday about intentions to bring up the bill again.

Trump had slammed the “Phony Witch Hunt” again in a tweet on Tuesday.

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