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The Senate Judiciary Committee is Renewing Its Attempt To Protect Special Counselor Robert Muller

Graham, Tillis, Coons and Booker originally introduced bills in the summer of 2017 after Trump started to criticize the special counsel.

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Special counsel Robert Mueller, in charge of investigating Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and possible collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign, departs Capitol Hill, in Washington, June 21, 2017. VOA

Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee are renewing their attempt to protect special counsel Robert Mueller’s job, sending a signal to President Donald Trump as he keeps up his criticism of Mueller’s Russia investigation.

The legislation, sponsored by incoming Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and three other members, is expected to be introduced this week. The same bill was approved by the panel in April but later blocked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said it was unnecessary and who allowed the legislation to expire at the end of the year.

Graham is a friend and ally of the president’s but has frequently warned him not to mess with Mueller’s job.

“I think this will serve the country well,” Graham said in a joint statement ahead of the bill’s introduction.

 

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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), left, speaks to the media about national security as North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, right, listens, in Greensboro, N.C., Sept. 26, 2014. VOA

Both Graham and North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, the bill’s other Republican sponsor, have said they don’t think Trump will move to have Mueller fired.

“I still believe that is true,” Tillis said in the statement. “However, I also believe this bipartisan legislation is good government policy with enduring value across the current and future administrations.”

The legislation would allow any fired special counsel to seek a judicial review within 10 days of removal and puts into law existing Justice Department regulations that a special counsel can only be fired for good cause. It would also order that staff remain and documents be preserved while the matter is pending.

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U.S Senators Bob Corker, center, and Chris Coons, right, speak with a South Sudanese refugee during a group discussion at the Bidi Bidi refugee settlement in northern Uganda, April 14, 2017. VOA

Democratic Sens. Chris Coons of Delaware and Cory Booker of New Jersey are also sponsors of the bill.

“This is a time when Republicans and Democrats need to stand up and protect the rule of law in this country,” Coons said in the statement.

Trump regularly criticizes Mueller’s Russia investigation on Twitter, calling it a “witch hunt” and a “hoax.” In December, he suggested he would do a counter report to challenge Mueller’s probe into contact Trump’s Republican presidential campaign had with Russia. On Dec. 3, he tweeted that Mueller and his staff “only want lies.”

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Protesters gather in front of the White House in Washington, Nov. 8, 2018, as part of a nationwide “Protect Mueller” campaign.. VOA

Graham, Tillis, Coons and Booker originally introduced bills in the summer of 2017 after Trump started to criticize the special counsel. They agreed on a compromise version in early 2018, and the panel approved it with the support of four Republicans on the panel. One of those Republicans, former Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, tried to force McConnell to pass the bill in December by saying he would vote against all judicial nominees at the end of the year. But McConnell refused to consider the legislation.

Also Read: Protestors Stand Against Derailling Muller’ Probe, Warns Trump

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., introduced a companion bill in the House last week, his first major action as chairman. (VOA)

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Signs Of The U.S. Government Shutdown Ending May Soon Be Emerging

Pelosi had suggested Trump postpone the annual State of the Union address, a Washington tradition and a platform for his border wall fight with Democrats.

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President Donald Trump speaks about American missile defense doctrine, Jan 17, 2019, at the Pentagon. VOA

The first tangible signs of movement may be emerging in the impasse that has shut down the government for weeks: President Donald Trump is promising a “major announcement” about the closure and the U.S.-Mexico border and Democrats are pledging more money for border security.

It was unclear whether the developments, following days of clashes between Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., might represent serious steps toward resolving the partisan fight or instead may simply be political posturing as the partial shutdown reached a record 29th day. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers have gone without paychecks, enduring financial hardship. Many public services are unavailable to Americans during the closure.

The White House has declined to provide details about what the president would announce midafternoon Saturday. Trump was not expected to sign a national emergency declaration he has said was an option to circumvent Congress, according to two people familiar with the planning.

Instead, he was expected to propose the outlines of a deal that the administration believes could have the potential to pave the way for a shutdown end, according to one of the people. They were not authorized to publicly discuss details about the impending announcement and spoke on condition of anonymity.

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From left, President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. VOA

 

Democrats are now proposing hundreds of millions of dollars for new immigration judges and improvements to ports of entry from Mexico but nothing for the wall, a House aide said, as the party begins fleshing out its vision of improving border security.

Trump’s refusal to sign spending bills that lack $5.7 billion he wants to start constructing that wall, which Democrats oppose, has prompted the shutdown.

Whatever the White House proposed would be the first major overture by the president since Jan. 8, when he gave an Oval Office address trying to make the public case for the border wall. Democrats have said they will not negotiate until the government reopens, raising questions about how Trump might move the ball forward.

Democrats were proposing $563 million to hire 75 more immigration judges, who currently face large backlogs processing cases, and $524 million to improve ports of entry in Calexico, California, and San Luis, Arizona, the Democratic House aide said. The money is to be added to spending bills, largely negotiated between the House and Senate, that the House plans to vote on next week.

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Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-California, opposed to immigration raids targeting Central American families with children. VOA

In addition, Democrats were working toward adding money for more border security personnel and for sensors and other technology to a separate bill financing the Department of Homeland Security, but no funds for a wall or other physical barriers, the aide said.

It was possible Democrats would introduce that measure next week as the cornerstone of their border security alternative to Trump’s wall, the aide said. Earlier Friday, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., who leads the House Appropriations Committee’s homeland security subcommittee, said in an interview that some Democrats were asking leaders, “What is our plan?”

The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the details publicly.

In a video posted on his Twitter feed late Friday, Trump said both sides should “take the politics out of it” and “get to work” to “make a deal.” But he also repeated his warnings, saying: “We have to secure our southern border. If we don’t do that, we’re a very, very sad and foolish lot.”

Few would argue that a humanitarian crisis is unfolding at the U.S.-Mexico border, as the demand for entry by migrants and the Trump administration’s hard-line response overwhelm border resources. But critics say Trump has dramatically exaggerated the security risks and they argue that a wall would do little to solve existing problems.

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Migrants from Cuba, Venezuela and Central America queue at the Paso del Norte International Bridge in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, Mexico, to cross the border and request political asylum in the United States, Jan. 9, 2019. VOA

Trump’s Friday evening tweeted announcement came after Pelosi on Friday canceled her plans to travel by commercial plane to visit U.S. troops in Afghanistan, saying Trump had caused a security risk by talking about the trip. The White House said there was no such leak.

It was the latest turn in the high-stakes brinkmanship between Trump and Pelosi that has played out against the stalled negotiations.

Also Read: U.S. President Donald Proposes Deal To End Shutdown

Pelosi had suggested Trump postpone the annual State of the Union address, a Washington tradition and a platform for his border wall fight with Democrats. It is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 29.

Trump never responded directly. Instead, he abruptly canceled Pelosi’s military flight on Thursday, hours before she and a congressional delegation were to depart for Afghanistan on the previously undisclosed visit to U.S. troops. (VOA)