Bipartisan legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller now lies in the hands of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after the GOP-led Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to advance it, the AP reports. McConnell has said the bill is unnecessary and he won't let it reach the Senate floor. But the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee added to the pressure on McConnell by voting for the measure and saying McConnell should change his mind. "While my constitutional concerns remain, I believe this bill should be considered by the full Senate," said Sen. Chuck Grassley. Republicans have split on the issue amid President Donald Trump's repeated criticism of Mueller's Russia investigation. That break was apparent Thursday as four Republicans joined Democrats in the 14-7 vote to pass the legislation from committee.
For now, the move is largely symbolic, given McConnell's opposition, but it shows the complexity of Republican support for Trump when it comes to the president's attacks on Mueller. Nearly all GOP senators say Trump shouldn't fire Mueller. But Republicans who support the legislation say it's necessary to guard against presidential interference by giving Congress more oversight power. The legislation would give any special counsel a 10-day window to seek expedited judicial review of a firing and would put into law existing Justice Department regulations that a special counsel can only be fired for good cause. Per Bloomberg, multiple Republican lawmakers—including ones who oppose the legislation protecting Mueller—have warned Trump could face impeachment were he to fire the special counsel. On Fox & Friends Thursday, Trump called Mueller's probe a "witch hunt." (Read more Robert Mueller stories.)