Sen. Mike Lee blocks proposed legislation to protect Mueller investigation of Russian meddling in U.S. election

Lee cited a 30-year-old dissent by Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia arguing that protecting an independent counsel from presidential power creates a “fourth branch of government.”

Lee warned that the bill to protect Mueller would “fundamentally [undermine] the principle of separation of powers.”

“Prosecutorial authority in the United States belongs in the Department of Justice.” Lee said.

.. Lee and fellow Republicans, including longtime Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, have said there’s no need for legislation because Trump wouldn’t fire Mueller or end his probe. Sen.-elect Mitt Romney, who will succeed Hatch, says the investigation must continue unimpeded, though he isn’t sure if legislation is necessary.
.. Flake, who is leaving office, said Wednesday that his colleagues are blind if they can’t see Trump is already angling to halt Mueller’s investigation.

.. “With the president tweeting on a regular basis, a daily basis, that the special counsel is conflicted, that he is leading the so-called 12 angry Democrats and demeaning and ridiculing him in every way, to be so sanguine about the chances of him getting fired is folly for us,” Flake said on the Senate floor.

.. Coons pointed out that the Scalia opinion Lee cited was a dissent on a 7-1 decision by the high court and that the justices ruled the law creating an independent counsel was constitutional. (The law has since expired and the special counsel now is supervised by the attorney general.)

.. “At the end of the day, leader McConnell has gotten reassurances from the president that he won’t act against Mueller, but those assurances are undermined every single day when President Trump both tweets untrue criticisms of Robert Mueller and his investigation and does other things that are unexpected or unconventional or unjustified,” Coons told MSNBC.

Manafort Lied About Business Dealings, Mueller’s Team Believes

Investigators alleged that Mr. Manafort made inaccurate statements in interviews with Mr. Mueller’s team about his communications with Konstantin Kilimnik, said the people familiar with the matter.

.. Mr. Kilimnik, who Mr. Mueller charged earlier this year along with Mr. Manafort with trying to influence the testimony of two witnesses against Mr. Manafort, had worked for Mr. Manafort’s lobbying firm in Ukraine. Messrs. Manafort and Kilimnik communicated earlier this year about contacting others who worked with them in an alleged effort to coordinate their stories

.. Mr. Mueller has long been interested in the relationship between Messrs. Manafort and Kilimnik.

.. He has questioned witnesses about a boat trip that Mr. Manafort took with Tom Barrack, a longtime friend of Mr. Trump, after Mr. Manafort was ousted from the Trump campaign in August 2016, say people familiar with the matter. Witnesses believed investigators were seeking to determine whether Mr. Manafort ever met with Mr. Kilimnik on that trip.

.. With the Mueller-Manafort dispute breaking into public view, some legal experts believe Mr. Manafort’s best hope for leniency is to obtain a presidential pardon. On Wednesday Mr. Trump told the New York Post a pardon for Mr. Manafort was “not off the table.” Any pardon would likely spark a firestorm among Democrats, who are preparing to take control of the House.

.. Senate Republicans Wednesday blocked an effort to pass legislation protecting Mr. Mueller’s investigation.

For the second time this month, Sens. Jeff Flake (R., Ariz) and Chris Coons (D., Del.) tried to pass by unanimous consent legislation designed to protect Mr. Mueller from being fired. They were blocked by Sen. Mike Lee (R., Utah) on Wednesday. Two weeks earlier, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) had objected, blocking the bill.

Donald Trump’s band of losers: Getting desperate as Mueller closes in

Rudy Giuliani has confirmed that Manafort’s team has been feeding information about the Mueller investigation to Trump’s team.

.. Corsi — who has spent the past few weeks in a panic, clearly calling reporters repeatedly in an effort to spin his legal situation — looks an awful lot like he’s squealing on his buddy Stone to the press.

.. obtained court documents that appear to show Corsi communicating with Stone about working with WikiLeaks to publish stolen Democratic Party emails online during the 2016 campaign, in a deliberate effort to hijack the news scandal and create a fake air of scandal around Hillary Clinton. These hacked emails, as earlier reporting has demonstrated, were stolen by Russian intelligence services.

.. A betting woman would say that this is Corsi’s attempt to get the heat off him by throwing Stone under the bus. If so, it’s a poor attempt: The emails make them both look guilty and Mueller’s office appears confident that Corsi’s cries of innocence are so many lies.

.. there’s an upside to the fact that Trump has attracted a bunch of sleazes with no loyalty to anyone but themselves. Once things start really going south for such folks, they tend to turn on each other. Hell, Corsi appears to be turning on Stone for no discernible reason, beyond a general feeling that throwing bodies under the bus will slow it down long enough for him to escape

.. Trump, on the other hand, has been close to Roger Stone for years, and the latter had encouraged Trump to run for president as far back as the late ’90s.

.. It seems likely that Stone, his old lobbying partner Manafort and Corsi saw Trump as their ticket out of the sidelines and back into the mainstream of Republican politics. After all, Trump was not only mainstreaming the filthy, conspiracy theory-laden side of Republican politics, he was rapidly displacing what little was left of respectable Republican politics with circus antics. It’s hard to imagine that men so eager to ingratiate themselves would be anything less than eager to impress their boss and benefactor with news of their corrupt shenanigans involving stolen emails.

.. That Manafort and Corsi both appear to be leaking information about the investigation to Trump is just another reminder that conspiracy is second nature to these folks. Trump may act like a doddering old fool in public, but as the recordings of his discussions about paying off women to cover up affairs make clear, in private he likes to conduct himself like a high-level mafioso. No wonder Trump’s starting to panic, spraying more defensive nonsense about the “Angry Mueller Gang” on Twitter. Because the people he’s surrounded himself with, who are all amoral and self-serving, realize that they’re no longer outrunning the law.

Retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) have asked for “unanimous consent” to bring the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act to a vote on the Senate floor. The push comes after Jeff Sessions resigned from his post as attorney general, prompting speculation about the future of the Mueller investigation.

Steve Hilton said the proposed legislation is “ridiculous,” as Trump has never given any indication that he plans to shut down the Russia probe.

He said there should be an “equivalent investigation” of the Hillary Clinton campaign and all the “deep state malarkey” that happened prior to the 2016 election.

Melissa Francis said the problem is that “nothing ever comes of these investigations.”

“The idea that they would come together and draft legislation to protect an investigation? I mean, if that isn’t the swampiest thing you’ve ever heard in the world,” Francis said. “To waste time and money and effort on that, it makes me want to send them all home for a nap.”