Protect the Mueller investigation
Last week, FBI agents searched the office of Donald Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, after obtaining a warrant signed by a federal judge. They reportedly seized documents relating to Cohen's financial affairs, including his payout to Stormy Daniels, who alleges she had an affair with Trump.1
Predictably, Trump railed against the FBI in a series of statements and tweets, mused about firing Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, and then spent much of the week stoking right-wing fervor for him to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.2,3 With the White House openly admitting it has explored firing Mueller or other methods to impede his investigation, the threat to the independence of the investigation has never been more real, and Congress must step in now before it is too late.
Sign the emergency petition to Congress: Protect the rule of law by ensuring the independence of current investigations into Trump’s Russia ties.
Even Republicans are saying that Trump must not fire Mueller – but so far, they have done nothing to prevent him from doing so.4 We need to raise the stakes and force them to act on their big talk.
The raids on Cohen's office, home and hotel are a big deal. The standard of evidence for such a warrant is extremely high. To sign off on a warrant rather than a subpoena, the judge must have seen highly credible evidence of serious crimes or evidence that Cohen was hiding or would have destroyed evidence if given the opportunity.5
Ignoring the reality that Mueller referred the Cohen matter to the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York because potential charges of bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations fall outside the purview of his investigation,6 Trump's reaction has been completely out of line. First, Trump said “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."7 Then, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders let it slip that the White House has researched his ability to do so, saying, "we've been advised that the president certainly has the power to make that decision."8
The fact that Trump has his team investigating his ability to fire Mueller indicates that we are on the precipice of a constitutional crisis, and yet Mitch McConnell is still blocking legislation to prevent Trump from firing Mueller, denying that it is even a possibility.9 Bipartisan legislation already exists to protect Mueller, and if Trump fires him or Rosenstein, it will be crucial to preserve the investigation.10 Republicans must back up their strong talk with real action – need to show that they are willing to force the White House to obey the law by protecting Mueller’s investigation and keeping it independent of Trump overreach.
Sign the emergency petition to Congress: Pass legislation to protect special prosecutor Mueller from Trump’s abuse of power.
Unlike in the summer when it first appeared that Trump was contemplating firing Mueller, there are now key Senate Republicans who have spoken out and must draw a line in the sand to protect our democracy.
Not long ago, a post-Watergate law was in place that protected investigations like Mueller’s from presidential overreach. The Ethics in Government Act of 1978 set up a system to ensure that special prosecutors would be totally independent officials that a group of judges could appoint and no president could fire. But in the 1990s, Republicans and Democrats teamed up to let the independent counsel statute expire.11
Mueller, instead, is a special prosecutor serving at the whim of Trump’s own Department of Justice.12 That means that Trump could order Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to fire Mueller, sparking a constitutional firestorm with the executive branch seeking to crush the rule of law to protect its grip on power. Reports indicate Trump might fire Rosenstein instead, which would seriously jeopardize Mueller's investigation.
Either way, Congress can prevent this nightmare scenario. With an illegitimate autocrat occupying the White House, our system of laws needs the strongest possible defense – no White House is above the law. Congress must step up now to make sure we have a truly independent Trump investigation.
Tell Congress: Protect the rule of law by ensuring the independence of current investigations into Trump’s Russia ties.
Thank you for speaking out.
- Philip Bump, "We may soon learn a lot more about that $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels," The Washington Post, April 10, 2018.
- Christiano Lima, "Trump on whether he'll fire Mueller: 'We'll see what happens,'" POLITICO, April 9, 2018.
- Pamela Brown et al, "Trump considering firing Rosenstein to check Mueller," CNN, April 10, 2018.
- Burgess Everett, Elana Schor, and Kyle Cheney, "Republicans warn Trump against axing Mueller," POLITICO, April 10, 2018.
- Jennifer Rubin, "Trump melts down after Cohen raid — and only hurts himself," The Washington Post, April 10, 2018.
- Carol Leonnig, Tom Hamburger and Devlin Barrett, "Trump attorney Cohen is being investigated for possible bank fraud, campaign finance violations," The Washington Post, April 9, 2018
- Alexander Bolton, "Schumer: It's time to vote on legislation protecting Mueller," The Hill, April 10, 2018.
- Chris Cillizza, "The White House just let slip a big secret about firing Robert Mueller," CNN, April 10, 2018.
- Jordain Carney, "McConnell: Legislation to protect Mueller not needed," The Hill, April 10, 2018.
- Elana Schor, "Bipartisan Senate bill to protect Mueller set for release Wednesday," POLITICO, April 11, 2018.
- Phil Helsel, "‘Special Counsel’ Less Independent Than Under Expired Watergate-Era Law,” NBC News, May 17, 2017.
- Erwin Chemerinsky and Eric Freedman, "Naming Robert Mueller as special counsel isn't enough – because Trump can get rid of him," Los Angeles Times, May 17, 2017.