Schumer: Interfering with Mueller would spark 'constitutional crisis'

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerFacebook reeling after damning NYT report Schumer warns Trump to stay out of government funding negotiations Schumer predicts Nelson will 'continue being senator' if 'every vote counted' MORE (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday warned that attempts by President TrumpDonald John TrumpBroward County official Brenda Snipes submits resignation after criticism Retired lieutenant general tears into Trump over attacks against Navy SEAL: 'Disgusting' Senate barrels toward showdown over Trump's court picks MORE or a successor to Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump labels Schiff ‘little Adam Schitt’ Top House Oversight Dem says he will do ‘anything and everything’ to make Mueller’s findings public Watchdog group demands release of Whitaker's financial disclosures MORE to interfere in special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's investigation would spark a “constitutional crisis.”  

"I'd say this: Protecting Mueller and his investigation is paramount,” Schumer told reporters during a previously scheduled press conference. “It would create a constitutional crisis if this were a prelude to ending or greatly limiting the Mueller investigation and I hope President Trump and those he listens to will refrain from that.”

Schumer was peppered with questions about the attorney general's exit minutes after Sessions was ousted from the top Justice Department spot. In his resignation letter, Sessions said he was submitting his resignation at Trump's request. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Sessions and Trump have had a frayed relationship for months, but firing him sparked immediate concerns by Schumer and other Democrats that it could be an effort to interfere in Mueller's investigation into potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Trump has lashed out at the probe, decrying it as a “witch hunt.”

Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation shortly after being sworn in as attorney general, putting Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinMueller could turn easy Trump answers into difficult situation Attorneys want Supreme Court to determine legality of Whitaker as acting AG Top Dems: DOJ position on Whitaker appointment 'fatally flawed' MORE in charge of the probe.  

Schumer, asked if he had any requirements for a new attorney general nominee, demurred, saying he wanted to view the details of Sessions's dismissal, after being told about the news during the press conference. 

"I'm not going to say much until I read what they said and why. I find the timing very suspect, number one," Schumer said, before adding that any attorney general "should not be able to interfere with the Mueller investigation in any way." 

Democrats are limited in their ability to block Trump's nominees. An attorney general nominee would only need a simple majority in the Senate, meaning Democrats would need to remain united and win over a handful of Republicans to be successful in blocking a nomination. 

Instead, Democrats have for months called for Congress to pass legislation that would protect Mueller if he is fired. But GOP leadership has dismissed the need for such a bill and Democrats are powerless to muscle through the proposal on their own.

Several House Democratic lawmakers quickly renewed their calls to protect Mueller on Wednesday, one day after the party took back the majority in the House.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who will likely become the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, questioned the timing of Sessions's dismissal. 

"Why is the President making this change and who has authority over Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation? We will be holding people accountable," he said in a tweet

Rep. Lou CorreaJose (Lou) Luis CorreaDems aim to balance oversight, bipartisanship on VA committee Schumer: Interfering with Mueller would spark 'constitutional crisis' Lawmakers press for answers on border deployments MORE (D-Calif.) added that it's "imperative" that whoever Trump picks to succeed Sessions "vows to continue and protect the ongoing investigation."

And Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyBipartisan Senate bill would penalize illegal robocalls Hillicon Valley: Russian-linked hackers may have impersonated US officials | Trump signs DHS cyber bill | Prosecutors inadvertently reveal charges against Assange | Accenture workers protest border enforcement work | App mines crypto for bail bonds Senators push bipartisan bill to crack down on robocalls MORE (D-Mass.) doubled down on calls for the Mueller legislation and raised concerns that Rosenstein could be Trump's next target. 

"Sessions faithfully carried out Trump's extremist agenda. Yet Trump fired him before all the midterm ballots have been counted. If Trump tries to fire Deputy AG Rosenstein next, it will trigger a constitutional crisis. Now more than ever we must protect Special Counsel Mueller," he said in a tweet.