Rather than ride quietly off into the Arizona sunset, retiring Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, announced on Friday he and Democratic colleague Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware plan to call for a vote on legislation to block President Donald Trump from interfering with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation until it is complete.
The announcement came a day after Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had recused himself from overseeing the special counsel, and replaced him with Sessions’ chief of staff Matthew Whitaker.
The White House indicated that Whitaker will take charge of responsibilities of overseeing Mueller’s probe from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Flake tweeted on Thursday, “When the Senate convenes next week, @ChrisCoons and I will ask for unanimous consent to bring S.2644, the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act, to a vote on the Senate floor. After the firing of The AG, it is more important than ever to protect the Special Counsel.”
When the Senate convenes next week, @ChrisCoons and I will ask for unanimous consent to bring S.2644, the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act, to a vote on the Senate floor. After the firing of The AG, it is more important than ever to protect the Special Counsel.
— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) November 8, 2018
Flake’s action and word choice dovetail nicely with pronouncements made by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, as well as House Judiciary Committee ranking member Jerry Nadler, who all contended Trump’s firing of Sessions was an effort to interfere with or end Mueller’s investigation.
“It is impossible to read Attorney General Sessions’ firing as anything other than another blatant attempt by @realDonaldTrump to undermine & end Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation,” Pelosi tweeted on Wednesday.
According to NBC News, Schumer similarly stated that any interference in the Mueller investigation would be considered a “constitutional crisis,” and added that “we would hope, if there’s a constitutional crisis, that our Republican colleagues would join us in thwarting the president from creating that crisis.”
In a statement released on Wednesday, Nadler, who is expected to become chairman of the Judiciary Committee in January, said of Sessions’ firing, “There is no mistaking what this means, and what is at stake: This is a constitutionally perilous moment for our country and for the president.”
The congressman went on to warn that Trump may feel he has the power to hire and fire whom he pleases, but if he “abuses his office” for “the purposes of subverting the rule of law and obstructing justice … there will be consequences.”
“The firing of Jeff Sessions will be investigated and people will be held accountable,” Nadler pledged.
At a news conference at the White House earlier that same day, Trump told reporters regarding Mueller’s team, “I could fire everybody right now. But I don’t want to stop it, because politically, I don’t like stopping it. It’s a disgrace. It should have never been started because there was no crime. It is — everybody has conflicts.”
He added, “I stay away from it. But do you know what I do? I let it just go on. They’re wasting a lot of money, but I let it go on because I don’t want to do that. But you’re right — I could end it right now. I could say that investigation is over.”
During the news conference, the president also took responsibility for retiring Flake, saying he did the country a “great service.”
TRUMP: “I retired Jeff Flake. I’m very proud of it. I did the country a great service” pic.twitter.com/hhtkihT6Rv
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) November 8, 2018
“Pure and simple. I retired him,” Trump said. “I’m very proud of it. I did the country a great service.”
In announcing his retirement in the fall of 2017, Flake conceded that he could not get reelected in Arizona in the era of Trump.
The senator refused to endorse Trump in 2016 and wrote a book highly critical of him, released months after the new president took office.
Last month, Flake sided with Coons and other Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee in calling for a supplemental FBI investigation into the sexual misconduct allegations against then-Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Flake ultimately voted to confirm the Trump choice to the High Court.
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