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Republican Senator Blocks Bill To Protect Special Counsel

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A vote on a bipartisan bill designed to protect special counsel Robert Mueller was blocked Wednesday by Republican Senator Mike Lee, R-Utah.

Lee objected to a unanimous consent request to vote on the bill from Republican Senator Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Democratic Senators Chris Coons, D-Del., and Cory Booker, D-N.J.

The bill would require the Attorney General to provide a specific reason if Mueller were fired and would allow the special counsel to challenge his firing in federal court.

Supporters of the legislation cited President Donald Trump's frequent attacks on Mueller and the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, which the president has repeatedly derided as a "witch hunt."

Trump's appointment of Mueller critic Matt Whitaker as acting Attorney General has increased the necessity for protecting the special counsel, supporters have argued.

However, Lee claimed the bill is unconstitutional and would fundamentally undermine the principle of separation of powers by creating a "de facto fourth branch of government."

Republican leaders have also argued the legislation is unnecessary, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ken., calling the bill a "solution in search of a problem."

Flake, who is retiring at the end of his current term, has sought to increase pressure on his fellow Republicans by refusing to vote to advance Trump's judicial nominees in the Senate Judiciary Committee until the bill gets a floor vote.

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