August 24, 2018
Following a week during which the Russia investigation raised the level of rage and resistance at the White House, Congressional Democrats have drafted a wide-ranging contingency plan, should Special Counsel Robert Mueller be fired—or should President Donald Trump take other steps to quash the inquiry, such as firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein or pardoning key witnesses, NBC News reported on August 22.
It would start within minutes of Special Counsel Robert Mueller being axed—a cascade of activity emanating through the halls of Congress and over television airwaves, as well as citizen protests being prepped from the Virgin Islands to Alaska, the news outlet said.
Of top concern within the first 24 hours after such a move would be preventing Mueller’s documents from being destroyed and his team disbanded, according to the network’s interviews with nearly a dozen lawmakers, congressional aides, Democratic operatives, and attorneys involved in the planning.
Almost immediately, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer would consult with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, while Democrats would demand a floor vote on a bill retroactively protecting Mueller and protecting his materials.
In both the Senate and House, rank-and-file Democrats would contact a list of sympathetic Republicans who have signaled privately that they’d be willing to act, should Trump pull the trigger, NBC said.
“We’ve had a lot of conversations about how exactly and who and when and where,” Senator Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat who sits on the Judiciary Committee, told NBC News. “There have been several moments when it seemed imminent.”
And in cities across the country, rallies would be hastily scheduled for 5 p.m., if Mueller is fired before 2 p.m. on any given day. If he’s fired in the late afternoon or evening, the protests would be set for noon the following day.
The Democratic group MoveOn.org has been organizing 933 such rallies, NBC reported, with locations picked out and sponsors enlisted to handle logistics. The list includes rallies in big cities like Los Angeles, along with protests in more remote areas, such as the federal buildings in Bismarck, North Dakota, and Hilo, Hawaii.
Any success in protecting Mueller would depend heavily on a sudden change of heart by Republicans and their leaders, who have largely defended Trump and, to date, have clapped back, refusing to allow a full Senate vote on legislation to protect the investigation.
Still, Democrats are hoping that a Mueller firing would be considered so egregious that even Trump’s fellow Republicans would be pushed past a tipping point.
To speed up the response, congressional aides said language has been drafted for letters that House Democratic leaders would send to committee chairmen demanding hearings; to inspectors general demanding investigations; and to White House Counsel Don McGahn and the Justice Department demanding information about their communications before the firing.
Different Democrats have laid out different red lines for what actions by Trump would trigger a full-blown crisis response, NBC detailed. In December, Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Trump would be breaching a red line if he removed Mueller from his job, pardoned key witnesses or shut down the investigation. MoveOn has added replacing Rosenstein or repealing the special counsel regulations to the list, but notes that firing Sessions—who remains recused from the Russia probe—would “be one step short of the break glass moment.”
The most likely legislative vehicle for trying to protect Mueller after the fact would be a compromise bill co-sponsored by Senators Chris Coons and Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), along with GOP Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Thom Tillis of North Carolina. That bill would put in statute that the special counsel could challenge his firing in U.S. District Court, and would require his “personnel, documents and materials” to be preserved in the meantime.
The bill specifically states that it’s retroactive — meaning that it could be passed after Mueller was fired and still protect him.
A poll of registered voters released by Fox News on August 23 shows approval of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian intervention in the 2016 U.S. presidential election is at 59%, up 11 points from July.What’s more, 40% expect the probe will find President Donald Trump committed criminal or impeachable offenses.