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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People reportedly interviewed in Robert Mueller's Russia probe
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People reportedly interviewed in Robert Mueller's Russia probe

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions 

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Former FBI Director James Comey

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

White House Director of Strategic Communications Hope Hicks

(Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Trump advisor Stephen Miller

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

President Trump's son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner 

(bBRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Don McGahn, general counsel for the Trump transition team

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Christopher Steele, the former MI6 agent who compiled the reported Trump dossier 

(Photo by Victoria Jones/PA Images via Getty Images)

Sam Clovis, a former member of the Trump campaign

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

CIA Director Mike Pompeo
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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."

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