Mitch McConnell said something very odd Tuesday in an interview with Fox News Channel.
Asked about the ongoing bipartisan effort in the Senate to pass legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller, McConnell said this: "I don't think he should fire Mueller and I don't think he's going to. So this is a piece of legislation that isn't necessary in my judgment." He added (bolding is mine): "There's no indication that Mueller's going to be fired."
"No indication" that Trump might fire Mueller?
Let's me offer 4 pieces of evidence that counter that statement:
1) According to the New York Times, Trump ordered Mueller fired in June 2017, only to be talked out of it by White House counsel Don McGahn. Read the Times story:
"After receiving the president's order to fire Mr. Mueller, the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, refused to ask the Justice Department to dismiss the special counsel, saying he would quit instead, the people said."
Worth noting: Trump denied the reports, calling it "fake news."
2) In early December 2017, Trump again concluded it was time to get rid of Mueller. Again, the Times:
"In early December, President Trump, furious over news reports about a new round of subpoenas from the office of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, told advisers in no uncertain terms that Mr. Mueller's investigation had to be shut down."
3) Earlier this month, in front of TV cameras, Trump responded to a question from a reporter about whether he would fire Mueller with this: "Why don't I just fire Mueller? Well, I think it's a disgrace what's going on. We'll see what happens. Many people have said you should fire him. Again, they found nothing. And in finding nothing, that's a big statement."
4) The next day, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said that the White House had sought guidance as to whether Trump had the power to fire Mueller and concluded that "he certainly believes he has the power to do so."
Any one of those things might trigger some suspicion that Trump is considering getting rid of Mueller.
But, all four of them?
That rising drumbeat is the impetus for this bipartisan effort to protect Mueller being led by Sens. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, and Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican. Their legislation would only allow the special counsel to be removed for "cause" and only by a senior official in the Justice Department.
Given all of that, what McConnell should have said -- and what he did say at another point in the interview -- is that he thinks it is pointless to bring any sort of legislation that ties the president's hand vis a vis the special counsel to the floor because, even if it did pass the Senate, Trump would assuredly veto it. "And just [as] a practical matter even if we passed it, why would he sign it?," McConnell asked rhetorically on Tuesday.
Which is his prerogative. As McConnell noted in the Fox interview, it is within his power as Senate majority leader to control what bills come to the floor -- and what bills don't. If McConnell doesn't want the special counsel bill to get a full Senate vote, it almost certainly won't get one.
That's a matter for the Senate. And one worth debate.
What is beyond that sort of debate is the idea that there is "no indication" that Trump might fire Mueller. That contention is just plain wrong.
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