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Sen. Cory Booker: Special counsel Robert Mueller must be protected from Trump’s ‘authoritarian tendencies’

  • Sen. Cory Booker is hoping to include a bill to protect special counsel Robert Mueller in an immigration and government funding deal.
  • The New Jersey Democrat says Trump has authoritarian tendencies, therefore checks and balances are needed to protect special counsels.

As lawmakers work toward immigration and government funding deals, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., is hoping something else will be included in the negotiations — a bill to protect special counsel Robert Mueller from being fired by President Donald Trump.

According to a recent report by The New York Times, Trump ordered the firing of Mueller, who is overseeing the Russia investigation, last June. However, he backed down after White House counsel Don McGahn threatened to resign rather than carry out the order, the paper reported.

"We see almost astonishingly this president willing to have these authoritarian tendencies, whether it's firing the FBI director, firing the special prosecutor. These are the kind of things that are anti-democratic and belie checks and balances," Booker said in an interview with CNBC's "Power Lunch" on Monday.

Booker's remarks came as news broke that FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, often a target of Trump's attacks, had stepped down from the law enforcement agency.

Booker, who is often mentioned as a potential Democratic hopeful in the 2020 presidential campaign, introduced the bipartisan legislation along with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., in August. The bill, called the Special Counsel Independence Protection Act (SCIPA), would ensure that any attempt to remove a special counsel from office must first be reviewed by a panel of federal judges.

Booker also thinks wrapping the bill into the immigration and government shutdown debate won't derail a deal.

Right now, lawmakers and the White House are attempting to come to terms on a plan to protect young undocumented immigrants while ensuring border protection. The three-day government shutdown ended earlier this month after Democrats agreed to fund the government through Feb. 8. That agreement came after they received assurances that the Senate will take on immigration issues.

"I'm hoping we can get this done," Booker said. "In Washington it's often not a matter of can we do it, it's do we have the collective will. There are sound minds down there, and we can partner."

Over the weekend, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told CNN's "State of the Union" that Congress should pass legislation to protect Mueller, although she noted that she had faith in Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the probe.

"It probably wouldn't hurt for us to pass one of those bills," Collins told CNN. "There are some constitutional issues with those bills, but it certainly wouldn't hurt to put that extra safeguard in place given the latest stories, but again, I have faith in the deputy attorney general."