Can Congress Block Trump From Firing Mueller?

Some legal scholars question the constitutionality of bipartisan Senate bills that would allow a fired special counsel to have his dismissal reviewed by a judicial panel. Some lawmakers want to give job protection to Robert Mueller, who is investigating possible Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Congress may be unable to provide job protection for special counsel Robert Mueller, whose wide-ranging investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election continues to anger President Trump, McClatchy Newspapers reports. Experts offered the Senate Judiciary Committee competing views on whether two bills designed to protect Mueller from firing by Trump or someone in the Justice Department would pass constitutional muster. A bill sponsored by North Carolina Republican Thom Tillis and Delaware Democrat Chris Coons would allow a fired special counsel to have his dismissal reviewed by a three-judge panel within 14 days. Another measure from Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) would require the Justice Department to clear such a firing with a panel of judges before it could take effect. “The bills … are unwise and unconstitutional,” said Akhil Reed Amar, a constitutional law professor at Yale Law School, who publicly opposed Trump in the election.

University of Chicago law Prof. Eric Posner, also no fan of Trump, disagreed. “I’ve concluded they do not violate the principle of the separation of powers and on the contrary advance important constitutional values.” John Duffy, a law professor at the University of Virginia and former clerk of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, argued that parts of both bills were legally questionable, but said they could be tweaked to help pass judicial reviews. The complex legal issues and the scholars’ differing perspectives seemed to give senators pause about how, or whether, to move forward.