EDITORIAL: Congress must act to protect Robert Mueller

SHARE EDITORIAL: Congress must act to protect Robert Mueller
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Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel probing Russian interference in the 2016 election, departs Capitol Hill following a closed door meeting in Washington in June 2017. (AP File Photo/Andrew Harnik )

To assume Donald Trump won’t do the wrong thing is never a safe bet.

That’s especially true given reports that he’s already tried to do the wrong thing — fire special counsel Robert S. Mueller III — twice. The first time, it took his White House counsel’s threat to quit to get Trump to back down.

EDITORIAL

That’s why we’re skeptical that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is reading the president right when he says Trump won’t fire Mueller. And that’s why we’re certain McConnell is making a big mistake by refusing to allow consideration of legislation to protect Mueller.

The legislation — bipartisan, by the way — would give any special counsel a 10-day window to seek expedited judicial review of a firing, and would put into law existing Justice Department regulations that require a firing to be for “good cause.” At the time it was introduced, Trump was fuming on Twitter, as he often does, about Mueller’s investigation of his campaign’s possible cooperation with Russia’s election interference.

Yet McConnell won’t even allow a vote on the proposal. Maybe he believes Trump’s Twitter rants are harmless venting. Maybe he’s concerned about, as one of his GOP colleagues put it, “poking the bear,” riling Trump to the point that he fires Mueller just to prove he can. We hope it’s not because McConnell continues to care more about carrying water for the president than uncovering the truth about a foreign power’s attack on our democracy.

As a practical matter, it’s hard to see Trump signing such a bill, so its prospects of becoming law are poor. A similar bill in the House faces even more daunting prospects.

Even so, Congress needs to pass legislation protecting Mueller. It’s imperative to send a clear signal to the president that if the special counsel is fired, it really will be “the beginning of the end” of his presidency.

But let’s also get a little more real here. A piece of legislation won’t be a complete safeguard on democracy if “we the people” don’t value it enough to insist that it be saved.

Americans have shown resolve to defend our values and principles at critical moments. We flooded airports to oppose Trump’s discriminatory travel ban on Muslims, called legislators and packed town hall meetings to save the Affordable Care Act, and marched in the hundreds of thousands to support sensible gun control.

Mueller’s investigation marks another critical moment, a test case of whether we’re paying attention when our core institutions, the Constitution and the rule of law, are under threat.

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com.

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