Senate Judiciary Committee passes bill to protect Mueller

WASHINGTON — The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to advance legislation designed to make it more difficult for any president to dismiss a special counsel, a signal to President Donald Trump amid Robert Mueller's ongoing Russia probe.

Four Republicans, including committee chairman Charles Grassley, voted with all of the panel's Democrats to send the bill to the Senate floor. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said he won't allow the full chamber to vote on it, saying in an interview last week, "we'll not be having this on the floor of the Senate."

The legislation represents a compromise between Grassley and a bipartisan foursome who had long advocated the measure: Lindsay Graham, R-S.C.; Thom Tillis, R-N.C.; Christopher Coons, D-Del.; and Cory Booker, D-N.J.

The committee defeated an amendment from Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, which reflected concerns among many Republicans that the legislation is unconstitutional.

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The vote came just hours after President Trump told Fox News that while he is staying out of the Russia investigation, he may "change" that approach at some point in the future.

Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer called on McConnell to "immediately" bring the bill up for a full Senate vote. "Given President Trump's statement just this morning that he may interfere with the special counsel's investigation, it's become even more of an imperative that Leader McConnell put this bill on the Senate floor for a vote immediately," he said in a statement. "Rather than waiting for a constitutional crisis, the full Senate should act now."