GOP senators suddenly try to protect Mueller from Trump after all


Within hours of stating otherwise, several Republicans in the Senate led by Chuck Grassley are now mysteriously backing legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller from Trump's anger.

Some Senate Republicans, led by Iowa's Chuck Grassley, have made a mysterious about-face regarding special counsel Robert Mueller. Right after saying Mueller didn't need protection from Trump's attacks, the senators are now backing legislation to do just that.

The unusual move comes just hours after some of them belittled concerns for just such a remedy. "I haven’t seen a clear indication that we need to pass something," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. His comment came hours after Trump claimed "many people have said [he] should fire" Mueller.

Other Republicans, like South Dakota's Sen. John Thune, seemed to agree. "I don’t know that that’s necessary. You know?" he said dismissively.

But now, their colleagues are whistling another tune.

Grassley now says he wants a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he chairs, to put limits on Trump.

A bipartisan group of senators, including Thom Tillis (R-NC), Chris Coons (D-DE), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), have proposed the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act.

Under the bill, only a senior official at the Department of Justice could fire the special counsel. And it would also call for a 10-day window of judicial review to determine if a removal is based on "good cause."

Graham's inclusion is particularly interesting. Just hours before Grassley's announcement, Graham said, "I'm not worried about Trump firing Mueller. I think he’s smarter than that."

What made Graham believe that Trump lost some intelligence in the time between his statement and Grassley's move is unclear.

In the intervening period, The New York Times reported that Trump considered firing Mueller in December 2017. Trump was upset about subpoenas issued pertaining to his business dealings with Deutsche Bank.

Some Republicans — or at least a rebellious faction of them in the Senate — now apparently believe that Trump is closer to triggering a constitutional crisis than he was just a day ago.

There are still many hurdles to clear before the legislation can become law, including the fact that McConnell has yet to experience the same change of heart as some of his colleagues. But something has changed, and Republicans are finally appearing to notice, and to care.

It is increasingly clear that standing with Trump is a political loser. The question now is how many Republicans are willing to go down for defending him.