VIDEO - Sen. Chris Coons , a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, joined Morning Joe to discuss his legislation to protect the Special Counsel.
“We could take up and pass this bill in a few minutes this afternoon and I’m confident it would get 60 votes,” said Coons. “I think frankly at the end of the day Leader McConnell has gotten reassurances from the president that he won’t act against Mueller, but those assurances are undermined every single day when President Trump both tweets untrue criticisms of Robert Mueller and his investigation and does other things that are unexpected or unconventional or unjustified.”
I’ve spoken to many Republican senators about why they continue to have confidence that President Trump won’t suddenly reach out and fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller given that President Trump just yesterday was tweeting that the Mueller investigation with a rigged witch-hunt run by angry Democrats. I don’t know what would give me the idea that President Trump might suddenly do something unpredictable except that he does it almost every day.
On how Republican colleagues explain not voting to protect the Special Counsel:
They don’t have an answer other than, well, it would be a bad thing to do so it won’t happen. This is the easiest way possible to prevent an entirely predictable constitutional crisis. When I press my friends who are Republican senators and leaders and say what would we do if he were to abruptly fire Robert Mueller, they say, well, it’s not going to happen. This is a simple step. I am grateful that Sen. Flake continues to be a good partner in this. He and I will be on the floor of the Senate later today once again asking for a live unanimous consent. We could take up and pass this bill in a few minutes this afternoon and I’m confident it would get 60 votes.
More on Mueller:
A number of senators of both parties have privately agreed that Whitaker is a less reliable supervisor and may well stumble into interfering with the Mueller investigation or may do it intentionally. Here is one of the things that worries me the most, we wouldn’t know until after he had taken steps that would constrain the Mueller investigation in ways that would prevent it from concluding appropriately.
So I think steps here that have been taken recently, the abrupt forced resignation of Attorney General Sessions, his replacement not by Rod Rosenstein who should have succeeded him under the relevant statute but by Matt Whitaker a political appointee and as you just referenced the things that Whitaker said last year about the Mueller investigation and the things President Trump continues to say and to tweet, all of that gives me significant reason for concern. This bill passed the Judiciary Committee by a strong bipartisan vote of 14-7 back in April, it’s time to take it up and pass it.
On the spending bill:
We are not there yet and what I think the Republican majority leader ought to do is simply allow us to have a vote and move forward. Senator Flake, I’ll remind you has steadfastly refused to vote for any presidential nominee for a judicial post, either in the Judiciary Committee or on the floor until we get this vote. That gives us some leverage. I appreciate that. And the co-sponsors of the bill are still standing behind it. So, I think there’s time this week and next for us to consider this issue before we get to the end of year spending bill. I think it’s a big mistake for President Trump to be cheering on a possible government shutdown over $5 billion more for his wall. Kasie, I’m old enough to remember back to when the Mexicans were going to pay for this wall.
We appropriated about $1.3 billion last year that hasn’t been spent yet on extending the wall. There’s about 700 miles of border wall already. Like almost every Democrat, I have voted for increased investments in border security, but to shut down the government of the United States when Republicans control the Senate and the House and the White House over a fight about border wall money when they haven’t spent the money they’ve already got seems to me pretty silly. I think we should resolve the Mueller bill separately, get it taken up and passed and then work together to resolve our spending issues before the end of this -- before the current bill runs out December 7th.
More on Mueller:
Because it’s my job. I think my job, my role, I think the role all of us are challenged to do here in the Senate is to fix real problems and we can see this problem coming at us like a freight train. Why do I keep reaching across the aisle, why do I keep trying to edges will late, Mike, it’s because I don’t know what else to do. I could simply attack my colleagues and denounce them or I can reach across the aisle and try and fix a problem that we can all see coming. I think that’s my role here and the way in which I can contribute. I share your deep concerns, at times I get very angry at my colleagues for things they say and do, but I think it’s my role and my opportunity here to serve, to work across the aisle and try to find a solution. Senator Flake is only going to be here serving alongside me a few weeks. He was willing to step up and take this on and I think that’s a great contribution.
Well, look, to be fair, there are some Republican senators who have constitutional concerns about this bill. I have discussed those at length with them. I strongly disagree. I wouldn’t be sponsoring a bill that I thought had any constitutional infirmities and I’m struck by the fact that as you just reminded us the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley, other leaders in the Republican caucus, Lindsey Graham, Thom Tillis, Jeff Flake all voted for this bill in Judiciary.
I think frankly at the end of the day Leader McConnell has gotten reassurances from the president that he won’t act against Mueller, but those assurances are undermined every single day when President Trump both tweets untrue criticisms of Robert Mueller and his investigation and does other things that are unexpected or unconventional or unjustified. His conduct in foreign affairs, some of the ways he speaks and engages with our allies and some of the things he has done domestically.
So if I were majority leader of the Senate I would be gravely concerned that there is an imminent constitutional crisis that I had the opportunity to prevent and I would find a way to allow this bill to become law quietly instead he is going to come to the floor likely and block us today. I wish we weren’t having this confrontation, I wish we could simply move forward and protect this investigation which is in everyone’s interest. It’s in the president’s best interest. It’s in the country’s best interest. So I’m puzzled by why the majority leader continues to do the president’s bidding on this, but that’s what I think is likely to happen today. My hope is that the investigation will be allowed to work through to its conclusion and its results will be shared with the Congress appropriately and then with the public so we all know what comes out of this investigation.
On the moral state of the country:
Well, thank you. The clip that you’re showing now is of a speech I gave last night at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church here in Washington. That was Abraham Lincoln’s church, the place where Abraham Lincoln went to go and pray and to seek some solace and comfort and guidance during the darkest hour of our history when we had a brutal civil war going on, not just sharp partisan speeches on the floor of the Senate, but a violent conflict that took many, many lives all across our country. I was there to talk about the importance of healing, of forgiveness, of addressing our divisions.
Look, there’s real reasons why we’re really mad at each other here in the Senate. We just finished a difficult divisive election, just before that we had the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings and I talked about Thanksgiving dinner and what it means for us as a country, to see each other as neighbor, not just those who look like us or sound like us or pray like us, but folks from all backgrounds and how our country was able to heal the wounds of the civil war, but we have lots of unaddressed, unresolved tensions and difficulties.
We here in the Congress should model more humble behavior, more prayerful behavior, more uniting behavior and not allow the current environment or some of our current national leaders to promote division. We instead should demonstrate how we’re able to work together and to resolve our nation’s big challenges. I’m the co-leader of the weekly prayer breakfast in the Senate.
One of the reasons I am thrilled to have that opportunity is it’s a chance for senators to gather every Wednesday morning and listen to each other and trust each other in confidence and in prayer. It’s a broad bipartisan gathering that has dozens of senators who participate and I just appreciate the chance to share with your viewers that there are folks here who recognize just how divided we are and how much harder we all need to work to try to address that.