OTG Supports Bills in Congress to Protect Special Counsels from Politically Motivated Firing

December 21, 2017

Law Needed After Robert Mueller Comes Under Unfounded Attacks by Partisans, Says OTG

WASHINGTON -- Open the Government joined a coalition of groups in a letter today calling on Congress to pass the Special Counsel Integrity Act (H.R. 3771 and S. 1741). The importance ofRobert Muller passing these bills was heightened after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation came under attack by those who wish to undermine the investigation for partisan purposes.

“We need strong laws to protect Special Counsels to ensure the process is not corrupted by political calculations,” said Open the Government’s Executive Director Lisa Rosenberg. “The orchestrated attacks against Robert Mueller vividly show the need to strengthen the shield protecting Special Counsels, so they can serve the American people’s right to know about their government.”

Both bills protect Special Counsels from unjustified removal by specifying that they “may only be removed for misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or other good cause, including violation of policies of the Department of Justice.”

While Justice Department regulations already protect the Special Counsel against removal without cause, those regulations are easy to amend or rescind. Enacting Special Counsel independence into law will ensure the integrity of their investigations by shielding them from political interference.

According to the coalition’s letter:

It has become increasingly clear that much of the criticism being directed at Special Counsel Mueller is politically motivated and meant to sow seeds of doubt in the minds of the American public about the legitimacy of his office’s findings. It is imperative to the country that Special Counsel Mueller be allowed to continue his investigation free from political pressures. Therefore, we urge you to support the bipartisan Special Counsel Integrity Act and enshrine into law the independence of the Special Counsel.

Open the Government is a Washington-based non-partisan coalition of good-and-limited government groups, environmentalists, journalists, library and consumer groups, labor, and others united to make the federal government a more open place in order to ensure integrity and accountability in the operation of our governing institutions, foster confidence in representative government, and support our democratic principles.

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Letter Text:

The undersigned groups strongly urge you to support the Special Counsel Integrity Act (H.R. 3771 and S. 1741). Both bills protect Special Counsels from unjustified removal by providing that they “may only be removed for misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or other good cause, including violation of policies of the Department of Justice.” While Justice Department regulations already protect the Special Counsel against removal without cause,[1] those regulations are easy to amend or rescind. Enacting Special Counsel independence into law will ensure the integrity of their investigations by shielding them from political interference.

Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller was appointed by Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to continue the FBI’s investigation into the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.[2] Special Counsel Mueller is also authorized to investigate any matters that arise from the original investigation and prosecute any federal crimes committed in the course of the investigation.

At the time of his appointment, Special Counsel Mueller was praised by Members of Congress from both parties for the independence he displayed as the Director of the FBI, a position in which he served from 2001 to 2013.[3]

Mr. Mueller’s qualifications and independence were not questioned until recently, when his office secured indictments of two former Trump campaign officials, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates,[4] and reached plea deals with Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos and former White House national security advisor Michael Flynn.[5]

Since these developments, Special Counsel Mueller has come under attack.[6] These criticisms are largely rooted in the mistaken belief that Special Counsel Mueller is biased against President Trump and therefore cannot be trusted to conduct an impartial investigation.

It has become increasingly clear that much of the criticism being directed at Special Counsel Mueller is politically motivated and meant to sow seeds of doubt in the minds of the American public about the legitimacy of his office’s findings. It is imperative to the country that Special Counsel Mueller be allowed to continue his investigation free from political pressures. Therefore, we urge you to support the bipartisan Special Counsel Integrity Act and enshrine into law the independence of the Special Counsel.

Sincerely,

 

[1] 28 CFR 600.7(d)

[2] Department of Justice, “Appointment of Special Counsel to Investigate Russian Interference with the 2016 Presidential Election and Related Matters,” May 17, 2017. https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/967231/download (Downloaded December 18, 2017)

  1. Terri Rupar and Mike DeBonis, “Congress is full of personal praise for Mueller,” The Washington Post, May 17, 2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2017/live-updates/trump-white-house/trump-comey-and-russia-how-key-washington-players-are-reacting/congress-is-full-of-personal-praise-for-mueller/?utm_term=.ce0aff0ec05e (Downloaded December 13, 2017)

[4] Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Michael S. Schmidt, and Matthew Rosenberg, “Former Trump Aides Charged as Prosecutors Reveal New Campaign Ties With Russia,” The New York Times, October 30, 2017 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/30/us/politics/paul-manafort-indicted.html (Downloaded December 14, 2017)

[5] Aaron Blake, “Robert Mueller just penetrated the White House gates with Michael Flynn’s guilty plea,” The Washington Post, December 1, 2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/12/01/robert-mueller-just-penetrated-the-white-house-gates-with-michael-flynns-guilty-plea/?utm_term=.8b6c9b6fb8d8 (Downloaded December 14, 2017)

[6] Ryan J. Reilly, “Jeff Sessions’ New Chief Of Staff: Mueller’s Russia Probe Could Be A ‘Witch Hunt’,” Huffington Post, September 22, 2017. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/matthew-whitaker-jeff-sessions-trump-russia-mueller_us_59c58316e4b01cc57ff23f65 (Downloaded December 14, 2017) and Samuel Chamberlain, “Watchdog reveals how ex-Mueller agents' anti-Trump texts came to light,” Fox News, December 13, 2017 http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/12/13/watchdog-reveals-how-ex-mueller-agents-anti-trump-texts-came-to-light.html (Downloaded December 14, 2017).