Jeff Flake is furious.
On Wednesday, Mitch McConnell decided it would be a good idea to stymie a bill designed to protect Robert Mueller and now, Flake is threatening to block Trump’s judicial nominees both in committee and on the floor unless there’s a vote on the special counsel legislation, which cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee in April.
“The president now has this investigation in his sights and we all know it,” Flake said on the Senate floor today, adding that he and Democratic Senator Chris Coons are ready and willing to push the issue “again and again” in light of last week’s rather disconcerting developments that saw Jeff Sessions forced out and replaced with Matthew Whitaker, a long-time critic of the Mueller probe.
Flake’s threat doesn’t carry a whole lot of weight considering he’s retiring, but if he makes good on it, it would be a real pain for Republicans who would presumably be forced to dodge the Senate Judiciary Committee (where they enjoy the slimmest majority), bring nominees straight to the floor and then lean on Mike Pence to break any ties.
Mitch McConnell and other Republicans swear a vote on the Mueller bill isn’t necessary because Trump wouldn’t actually move to fire the special counsel, but Flake argues recent events prove otherwise.
“The President has said that he’s not going to move on the special counsel, but that’s not enough,” Flake said Wednesday, adding that while Trump’s empty promises might “give comfort to the majority leader [they] don’t give comfort to me.”
“We have been told that the bill that Sen. Coons and I will move to bring up shortly is not necessary, as there have been no indications that the independence of Mueller’s investigation is in jeopardy,” Flake continued. “That may have been an arguable position before last week. But it is not arguable anymore.”
No, it is not.
Notably, Susan Collins on Friday said she believes the Senate should indeed consider a bill that effectively prevents Trump from going after Mueller.
For his part, Chuck Schumer is going to try and effectively blackmail Republicans during the lame duck session if Whitaker doesn’t bow out. “If Mr. Whitaker does not recuse himself, we Democrats are going to attempt to add legislation to the must-pass spending bill that will prevent acting Attorney General Whitaker from interfering with the Mueller investigation in any way,” Schumer says.
As far as the judicial nominees Flake has now pledged to try and block, there are a lot of them. “Twenty judicial nominees are currently waiting for a vote in the Judiciary panel, in addition to another nominee still awaiting a hearing, and 32 nominees have already cleared committee but not yet gotten a floor vote”, Politico reminds you.
On Wednesday, the Justice Department attempted to justify Whitaker’s appointment (full memo below), but you can be absolutely sure that this issue isn’t going away.
As for Jeff Flake, it looks like he’s going to go out with a bang. Now if only he had done what he knew was right with Brett Kavanaugh instead of being content with forcing a farcical one-week investigation that served only to give everybody plausible deniability, we might not have a Justice Animal House sitting on the Supreme Court.acting.ag.op