Should a Special Counsel Be Able to Request a Judicial Review of Their Termination? (H.R. 197)
Do you support or oppose this bill?
What is H.R. 197?
(Updated August 25, 2021)
This bill — the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act — would would specify that a special counsel can only be disciplined or fired by an Attorney General who has been confirmed by the Senate, or the most senior Senate-confirmed Dept. of Justice (DOJ) official who isn’t recused from the matter. A special counsel could only be removed for misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or other good cause including violations of DOJ policies. The special counsel would have to be informed in writing of the reason for their removal and could request a judicial review of their firing.
Argument in favor
This bill would protect the integrity of investigations carried out by a special counsel by shielding them from wrongful termination and ensuring they can request a legal review of their firing.
There’s no need for these procedures to be put in place, as any administration that fires a special counsel under murky circumstances would face calls for impeachment.
A special counsel; courts responsible for a judicial review; the DOJ; and the Attorney General.
Cost of H.R. 197
A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.
In-Depth: Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, along with Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and Steve Cohen (D-TN), reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to protect the Special Counsel investigation. In a joint statement, the Representatives said:
“For the last two years, House Republican leadership sat idly by, and often joined in, as President Trump attempted more than once to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller and launched serious attacks on senior Department of Justice officials in an effort to end the Russia investigation. Now that Trump has fired Attorney General Sessions and removed Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein from overseeing the investigation, we are faced with an acting Attorney General whose intentions are questionable. As the Special Counsel announces new indictments and guilty pleas from Trump’s closest allies and associates, it’s clear that the threat to the Mueller investigation will only grow stronger. Democrats and Republicans in Congress have mentioned their support for the inquiry to continue unimpeded. Now is the time for Congress to finally act and pass this legislation to protect the integrity of the Special Counsel’s investigation and the rule of law.”
In the previous Congress, then-House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) introduced this bill to protect special counsel investigations and “separate political interference from the carrying out of justice.” Rep. Nadler said:
“Unfortunately, it seems Republican leadership in the House lacks the spine to take a stand against President Trump’s abuse of power or defend our country from the constitutional crisis we would face if Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation were terminated or interfered with in any way… If the President were to move in any way to undermine or interfere with the Special Counsel’s ongoing investigation, it would appear to be the actions of someone who knows he is guilty of crimes and cannot withstand an honest investigation, at which point all options would have to be on the table.”
In the current Congress, this bill has the support of 127 bipartisan cosponsors, including 126 Democrats and one Republican. Last Congress, this bill had the support of 132 cosponsors, including 130 Democrats and two Republicans.
Of Note: Special Counsel Robert Mueller's final report, which was made public on April 18, 2019, contained a number of revelations about President Trump's attempts to influence or terminate the special counsel's investigation. The report said that while "the president's efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful," that was largely because the people around him "declined to carry out orders or accede to [the president's] requests," rather than due to a lack of efforts to end the investigation. It also revealed that Trump directed White House officials to tell former White House counsel Don McGahn to claim that stories about him wanting to fire Mueller were false and called McGahn at home to direct him to fire Mueller and claim conflicts of reason as the cause for the firing. Ultimately, Mueller concluded that his investigation didn't establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice, but also didn't exonerate him. He also suggested that Congress could take up the obstruction of justice aspect of the case.
In response to the Mueller report's release, Trump tweeted a series of "no collusion" videos and images. The Trump legal team called the report "a total victory for the president" that clearly demonstrates "no criminal wrongdoing." In a statement, the Trump team says, "The report underscores what we have argued from the very beginning - there was no collusion - there was no obstruction... [I]t is clear there was no criminal wrongdoing. Nothing withheld; nothing concealed; nothing deleted; nothing destroyed; and nothing bleached."
For their part, Democrats continue to argue there's case to be made for obstruction. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) issued a joint statement castigating Attorney General William Barr, saying, "As we continue to review the [Mueller] report, one thing is clear: Attorney General Barr presented a conclusion that the President did not obstruct justice while Mueller's report appears to undercut that finding."
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) preemptively called further efforts to probe the Mueller report's finding's futile, saying, "Democrats want to keep searching for imaginary evidence that supports their claims, but it is simply not there." Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), a Trump ally, says the special counsel's findings should end any future Congressional investigations:
“Prosecutors have one job, and that’s to prosecute and indict...And if Bob Mueller in two-and-a-half years of investigation — which includes both the FBI and special prosecutor’s time — doesn’t bring charges, I don’t know how much longer we need to be talking about collusion and obstruction.”
- Sponsoring Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) Press Release (116th Congress)
Sponsoring Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) Press Release (115th Congress)
- Countable - Mueller Report Key Findings
- Countable - Reactions to the Mueller Report
- Axios - Trump Team Statement
- Searchable Mueller Report
- CBS News
- NPR (Context)
Summary by Eric Revell(Photo Credit: Medill DC via Flickr / Creative Commons)
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