If anything has been made clear during the past few weeks, it’s that President Donald Trump really, really wants to fire special counsel Robert Mueller. His loose talk on social media and elsewhere about Mueller’s Russian collusion probe being a “witch hunt” has culminated in his open musings about sacking Attorney General Jeff Sessions over his recusal in the matter. Thankfully, members of Congress on both sides of aisle have bristled fiercely at this suggestion. Several of them have even taken action to back up their strong words.
“Two bipartisan pairs of senators unveiled legislation Thursday to prevent President Trump from firing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III without cause — or at least a reason good enough to convince a panel of federal judges,” reported The Washington Post’s Karoun Demirjian on Thursday. “The two proposals — one from Tillis and Sen. Christopher A. Coons, D-Deleware, and the other from Sens. Lindsey O. Graham, R-South Carolina, and Cory Booker, D-New Jersey — each seek to check the executive branch’s ability to fire a special counsel, by putting the question to a three-judge panel from the federal courts. They differ in when that panel gets to weigh in on the decision.”
Even beyond the matter at hand, the fact one of the three branches of government is acting as an equal check on the other is welcome news for every American who cares about the rule of law. It hasn’t always been thus, and we’re not just talking about one party or the other. Both Democrats and Republicans are guilty of this at different times. The last time Congress actually declared war was 1941, yet our military has been deployed countless times since. More recently, civil rights were put on the back burner by Republicans in the wake of 9/11 with the signing of the Patriot Act by President George W. Bush. Democrats seemed comparatively untroubled by President Barack Obama extrajudicial killings using drones in the Middle East. The whole reason we have a special counsel vulnerable to firing by the president, and not an independent counsel, is the statute was allowed to lapse by Congress in 1999.
For right now, we desperately need Mueller protected from Trump while he works on his investigation. In a larger sense, let this be a lesson for the future about the separation of powers and their importance.