Democratic lawmakers on Monday renewed their calls for Republicans in Congress to pass legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference amid heightened uncertainty over Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's fate in the Trump administration.
Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters that he believes "there's broad bipartisan support to protect the Mueller investigation," and said "that ought to be passed right away." Warner added, "There's been a lot of my Republican colleagues along the way who have said if the time comes, they'll step up. We'll see later this week if that time comes along."
Some Republican lawmakers on Monday expressed concern over the possibility that Rosenstein could be fired, but did not join in the calls from Democratic lawmakers to advance legislation.
Rosenstein, who currently oversees the Russia probe, will meet with President Donald Trump on Thursday amid questions over how long he will remain in the administration after The New York Times reported that he secretly suggested recording the President and weighed forcibly removing him from office.
North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, who co-sponsored a bill to protect special counsels, doesn't want Trump to fire Rosenstein -- but doesn't see the need to pass his bill now.
"It's a bill that I ultimately want to see passed for the future, but it's not something I'd put on the front-burner," Tillis told CNN.
Other prominent Democratic lawmakers, including Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence committee, similarly urged Republicans to back legislation to safeguard Mueller's probe on Monday.
In a message directed at Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Schiff tweeted, "@SpeakerRyan and @SenateMajLdr, it's time for a vote on legislation to protect Mueller and the rule of law. No more hiding. No more excuses."
Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said at a news conference Monday that if Rosenstein is fired it would amount to a "break the glass moment," and said that he hopes that Republican lawmakers "will rise to this challenge and will hold true to their promise that there would be a firestorm if he is fired."
Blumenthal said he wants to see Congress pass legislation "that would protect the special counsel against any attempt to intimidate or inhibit that investigation."
Some Republican lawmakers expressed alarm over the possibility that Rosenstein might be forced out at the Justice Department, but did not echo the call for Congress to move ahead with legislation to shield the special counsel inquiry.
Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah warned on Monday that if Trump were to fire Rosenstein, "it would cause a furor that I don't think we need right now." He added, "I like Rosenstein, personally."
But when asked if he believes the President should fire Rosenstein, Hatch said, "That's up to the President. I don't know."
Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said on Twitter that she is "very concerned by reports that Deputy AG Rosenstein will either be fired or forced to resign." In a second tweet, the Maine Republican said that Rosenstein "plays a critical role in overseeing the investigation headed by special counsel Mueller."
However, Monday's Rosenstein developments did not change the opinions of Republicans who opposed the legislation when the Senate Judiciary Committee approved it in April.
"I personally don't think it's constitutional," said Louisiana Republican Sen. John Kennedy, who voted against the measure in committee. "The deputy attorney general hasn't left yet, and I don't think he will. He has denied the allegations. I believe him."
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