Senate Republicans Take Significant Step to Restrain Trump’s Power

by JUDD LEGUM –

A unanimous decision.

The Senate unanimously approved a procedure that will block Trump from making recess appointments during August. The move is the one of the first significant actions Republican Senators have taken to restrain Trump’s power.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) moved to hold a series of “pro-forma” sessions while senators are away for the month of August. Every few days a Republican senator will preside over an empty chamber for about a minute. The move will prevent Trump from filling posts that would ordinarily require Senate confirmation.

Senate to meet in pro forma sessions on August 4, 8, 11, 15, 18, 22, 25, 29 and September 1. Next votes Sept 5

The action is significant because it comes as special counsel Bob Mueller ramps up his investigation into Trump’s campaign and possible collusion with Russia. On Thursday, it was revealed that Mueller has impaneled a grand jury in Washington D.C., a significant step which suggest his probe could also encompass obstruction of justice. Trump responded Thursday evening with an angry rant in West Virginia.

Only Rosenstein has the power to fire Mueller. The nuclear option, however, would be for Trump to fire Sessions while the Senate is in recess, then replace him with a new Attorney General who would take over supervision of the Russia probe from Rosenstein and fire Mueller.

Trump is being effectively encouraged to do just that by fierce supporters like former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ).

The Senate’s action today prevents Trump from taking that extreme step. He could still fire Sessions, but Sessions’ replacement would have to be confirmed by the Senate. It’s much more difficult to find someone with the ethical flexibility to fire Mueller at Trump’s command who could also garner the support of a majority of the Senate.

There are bipartisan efforts in the Senate to take further steps to protect Mueller. Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) and Sen. Thom Tills (R-NC) introduced a bill on Thursday that would make it even harder for Trump to fire Mueller. It would essentially allow a court to reinstate Mueller if he was fired for anything but clear misconduct.

 

Reprinted with permission from Think Progress