There is a consensus among experts across party lines and throughout the intelligence community that the Russian government, under President Vladimir Putin, poses an active threat to the American electoral process. Not only did Russia interfere in the US presidential election in 2016, but if left ignored and undeterred, its operatives will also try and likely succeed in doing so again.
That the Justice Department deemed it necessary to appoint Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government — and any matters that may arise as a result of that investigation — underscores the seriousness and gravity of this threat.
Yet as Mueller’s investigation has progressed and scrutinized members of the Trump campaign, the President and his legal team have intensified efforts to try to discredit the special counsel and erode public confidence in his investigation. While Mueller and his team have been working to get to the bottom of whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian officials, President Donald Trump and his legal team have apparently been working to create an eventual rationale for terminating the Mueller investigation.
Any attempt by the Trump administration to sabotage the investigation is more than just a threat to Mueller’s job — it also poses a serious threat to the integrity of our democracy and the system of checks and balances in government that has sustained our nation for centuries.
Before we approach the point of no return — a constitutional crisis triggered by presidential abuse of power — it is time for Congress to act decisively to fortify our system of checks and balances by passing a law to protect Mueller and any future special counsel from political interference.
That’s why this summer I co-authored the bipartisan Special Counsel Independence Protection Act with Sen. Lindsey Graham. Our bill will ensure that any firing of a special counsel would be subject to judicial review for cause by a three-judge panel, that only the attorney general has the authority to fire a special counsel and that a termination must be for legitimate, not political or ethically conflicted, reasons. Sens. Chris Coons and Thom Tillis have introduced similar legislation, and on Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will be holding a hearing on both proposals.
Mueller’s independent investigation is a matter of America’s national security and democratic stability, and there is no room here for partisan or political interference. In fact, a group of more than a dozen former administration officials, presidential ethics czars and scholars who have served at the highest levels of government in both Democratic and Republican administrations recently joined together to urge Congress to support our efforts to protect Mueller and any future special counsels from political interference.
It is imperative that Congress follow Tuesday’s hearing with swift action to pass legislation to safeguard Mueller’s ability to do his job effectively and to free him from retaliation from the President so that the system of checks and balances and separation of powers can continue to guarantee our democratic stability. It’s time to pass a law that protects both special counsel Mueller and the integrity of our democratic system. It’s time for the Senate to pass the Special Counsel Independence Protection Act.