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Lindsey Graham Plays Hardball With Trump Over Robert Mueller

The South Carolina senator has at least one positive quality -- he hates Donald J. Trump.

I have largely hated Senator Lindsey Graham since his days in the House of Representatives, when he served as one of the Republican floor managers during the impeachment of Bill Clinton. His voting record in the Senate is certainly not something that a liberal can get behind, as witnessed by the score of "zero" awarded to him by Americans For Democratic Action in 2015. But Lindsey Graham has at least one redeeming quality -- he despises Donald Trump. So, for the short term, at least, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" rule is in full effect.

There has been a lot of hand wringing in the Republican caucus in recent days over fear that Trump will get rid of special counsel Robert Mueller. But, Republicans being Republicans, if push comes to shove, not much will come of it. Trump is gonna do what Trump is gonna do, and no matter what congressional Republicans say today, when he fires Mueller most of them will either sit silently or come up with a reason to defend it. But not Lindsey Graham.

Graham is writing a bill to prevent a 21st century repeat of Nixon's "Saturday night massacre," which saw the top officials at the Justice Department step down rather than fire independent prosecutor Archibald Cox. He says he plans to introduce it next week, with support from at least some Republicans and -- he hopes -- all Democrats. He didn't offer any names of GOP senators, but, given Trump's threats directed at a few of them over their position on the Obamacare repeal vote, it's not hard to guess who might be willing to get on board.

The bill would, as Graham describes it, prevent a special counsel from being fired once he or she has been empaneled, without judicial review. Graham says the bill would apply not only to Trump, but to future presidents as well.

If Graham succeeds in getting his bill through the Senate it would face a dubious future in the House, where Republicans are still much more in love with Trump than most of their counterparts on the other end of the Capitol. House Republicans did send a big "fuck you" to Trump with a near unanimous vote on the Russia sanctions bill, but whether they would be willing to buck their Fearless Leader again in such a short period of time is anybody's guess. And if they are willing to do that, they would have to pass the bill with veto-proof margins, because Trump would never sign it.

Given the difficulty Graham's bill will have in becoming law, it looks more like a warning shot across Trump's bow than anything. It's spelling out to the White House exactly what Congress -- or more correctly, Graham, Democrats and a few other Republicans -- would consider a "bridge too far," just in case Trump and his advisors haven't gotten that message already. 

But suppose the bill does make it through, and goes the route of being vetoed with the veto upheld. Then what? It's a pretty good bet that Trump would take steps to get rid of Mueller and challenge Congress to do something about it. That's assuming he will even wait for the legislative process to play out before making a move, which, given Trump's impetuousness, is extremely unlikely.

Here is what Graham told reporters about his bill on Thursday morning: