A bipartisan congressional effort to shield special counsel Robert Mueller from presidential interference is getting a new boost from progressive activists—but it’s one that might not be welcome by the bill’s sponsors, who warn that such intense lobbying campaigns from liberals could scare off the necessary support from Republicans.
Stand Up America, an anti-Trump advocacy group that has more than 2 million members, is launching a new online effort designed to engage voters in a fervent lobbying campaign directed at their members of Congress, according to a draft of the group’s plans obtained by The Daily Beast.
“Mueller is closing in on the truth, and Trump’s panicking. That’s why we need our members of Congress on the record: Will they protect the rule of law or join Trump’s coverup?” reads an email that members of the group will receive later Tuesday.
The legislation, which aims to make it more difficult for President Donald Trump to fire the special counsel without proper cause, cleared a key hurdle last week when the Senate Judiciary Committee approved it with bipartisan support. The vote was 14 to 7, with all Democrats and four Republicans on the committee—including the chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)—backing it. Sens. Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) are the leading GOP co-sponsors.
But the effort has run into a likely fatal wall of opposition from Senate Republican leaders who oppose the legislation because they believe that Trump will not move to fire Mueller, despite the president’s near-daily characterizations of the special counsel’s investigation as unfair and a “witch hunt.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said definitely he will not give the legislation a vote on the Senate floor, essentially halting the legislation in its tracks.
Stand Up America’s lobbying effort aims to change that by ramping up the pressure on lawmakers in a strategy similar to that of last year when progressive groups mobbed congressional offices and phone lines in opposition to Republicans’ efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The group’s campaign, which has its own web site, is launching later Tuesday, and it follows an effort that saw 40,000 calls to congressional offices in the weeks leading up to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote.
But some proponents of the bill are worried that despite the intent, the progressive campaign could backfire. The legislative effort, which began last summer, was painstakingly billed as a bipartisan solution to further enshrine the credibility and independence of the Mueller investigation. The bill’s Democratic sponsors have been wary of lobbying efforts that make it appear like a partisan attack on the president, because they feel that it would prevent more Republicans from supporting their cause.
“This isn’t, at the end of the day, an attack on President Trump,” a Senate aide directly involved in the effort told The Daily Beast.
The aide, who was granted anonymity to candidly assess the new progressive campaign, said the legislation is “designed to strengthen our rule of law” and argued that while Trump has sparked concern among lawmakers for his suggestions that he would fire Mueller, the bill seeks to “address an issue that he’s unintentionally shone a light on.”