Transcript for Bipartisan senators on new bill to protect special counsel
??? And we are joined by the two senators joining forces on the legislation to protect the special counsel Robert Mueller. Thom Tillis and Chris coons. Thank you for joining me. Senator Tillis let me begin with you. You heard kellyanne Conway. No commitment from the president not to fire Robert Mueller. She says it's not being discussed. Your legislation would give a judge the ability to review any decision by the president to fire Robert Mueller. Why do you think it's necessary? I think it's a necessary part of just continuing to improve the reputation of Independence for the department of justice. This is something that lives beyond the special counsel. It provides the president with the opportunity to consult with the ag and the department of justice, potentially have one removed but have that subject a judicial review. The president is calling and you heard kellyanne Conway repeat it, the entire Russia story, a fabrication, a witch hunt and hoax. Do you agree? I'm not sure I agree with the witch hunt and we'll let the facts lead us to whether or not it was a hoax or distraction. We are where we are and I want to see this investigation concluded so that we can get on to doing the good work the president has already started with regulatory reform, health care and tax reform. This is a distraction I would like to get past so I could go back to supporting the president's agenda. Senator coons what are the prospects of passing the legislation? We have already heard strong interest from colleagues on both sides of the aisle in support thrg legislation. Senators graham and booker introduced a similar piece of legislation before we went out. George, I'll point to you the fact that the president just signed a Russia sanctions bill, one that he initially opposed but passed the senate 98-2. This is a bipartisan effort that may shore up the rule of law and separation of powers and may get passed. The president signed that sanctions legislation but we saw the tweet saying it's congress' fault and kellyanne Conway said he was referring to the sanctions legislation for relations with Russia being at an all-time low? I disagree. The beginning of a better relationship with Russia is pushing back on Vladimir Putin's aggressive actions. Putin is a bully and he interfered with our elections and stood behind Assad and his murderous regime. For us to have better relations we have to push back on this bully and that's what the Russia sanctions bill is going to do now it's signed into law. Senator Tillis are you ready to take the blame for relations being at an all-time low with Russia? The only reason is Russia is doing bad things. We are here because of their actions in crimea and meddling in elections, because they're not necessarily being helpful in Syria. Our relationship with Russia is on Russia. If they want to come to the table and work cooperatively I'm sure this president would like that and this congress would like that. But their behavior has to change. Senator coons we have heard a variety of objections to the special counsel from the president and his team. They pointed out saying Robert Mueller has a conflict, a friend with the former FBI director. They say James Comey although they say it's been a close professional relationship. They say that the fact that several members of the team, of the lawyers on the team have given contributions to Democrats in the past, signs of a conflict. They also say if Robert Mueller looks at the president's finances that would be crossing a red line. Any of those concern you? They don't. Frankly, Bob Mueller is one of the most respected senior federal law enforcement officials in modern American history. He's a Republican who was appointed by a Republican. I agree with senator Tillis, with Thom. It is in everyone's best interest for Mueller to be able to carry forward this investigation to its conclusion so we can work in a responsible way to address the real issues facing this nation. It's in president trump's interest, in protecting rule of law for Bob Mueller to be allowed to continue this investigation until it's conclusion. Do you see anything that would suggest Robert Mueller has a conflict? No I haven't. I have not seen any evidence to suggest that and that's why I want this investigation to just follow through to an expedient conclusion again so we can get back to fulfilling the promises we made the American people that the president is already working on. We need to be solely focused on that. What would it mean if the president fired Robert Mueller? What would the consequences be? I think it's another example -- to me, the reputation of the department of justice has suffered hits in the past. It would be another piece of fotter for people trying to discredit one of the most important parts of the administration and the FBI within the department of justice. I'm working very hard and I know senator coons is too to re-establish the integrity of this department which is critically important to restore the confidence of the American people. Senator coons Republican senator of Arizona suggested if the president does fire wroesht Mueller, the congress should think about hiring him. Would you be open to that? I would. I think if the president should fire Robert Mueller abruptly that would be crossing a big line and you would see strong bipartisan action from the senate which might include our reinstating him or rehiring him to continue to conduct that investigation on behalf of congress. George, one thing I would like to put there, I don't want this day to become a narrative to where we think that the president is heading in that direction. Kellyanne Conway said she hasn't had discussions with the president on this matter. Our effort is to take that off the table, any sort of precipitous removal but we don't have any specific evidence to suggest that the president is going to do that. This is policy that lives beyond this administration incidentally and it's supported policy going forward. I want to bring up another subject, health care. Since the effort to repeal Obamacare has failed, lots of concern that the health insurance markets are going to implode if congress doesn't pass bipartisan legislation to keep up the subsidy payments. Your colleague is working on that in a bipartisan fashion. Is that legislation you support or you think the president should sign? I met with senator Alexander and others to talk about what we can do to stabilize the market. I think Chris had a different view. I was disappointed we didn't get the votes to move forward with the health care reform bill a couple weeks ago but we have got a destabilized market where insurance ratsds will go up 20%, 30%, 40% next year. Anything we could do to prevent that and the damage that will have on people I think is something I have to look at. The president hadn't committed keeping those subsidies. What's your message to him? The cost-sharing reductions over time need to be eliminated. We can't pull a rug out underneath an industry that's had this in place for seven years. In an ideal world I would like to see them go away overnight but we don't live in an ideal world. It will have the effect of raising insurance premiums, and that's why we have to come up with a balance. I think the administration understands that. Senator coons? I agree with Thom. What I've heard in Delaware is about half of the projected increase in annual rates is because of uncertainty in the marketplace. We need to come together quickly in a bipartisan way to strengthen and stabilize the individual marketplace and need to begin working across the aisle to find ways to fix what is not working about the affordable care act while keeping in place the expansions that made better health care accessible for millions of Americans. Remarkable amount of bipartisan agreement between the two of you today. Senator Tillis that's not sitting well with everyone in your base. Laura Ingram is saying another Republican senator who doesn't understand there are three branches of government. Any response? Well, the response is the irony in the statement. I work in congress. I'm a member of the senate. My job is to assert the authority of the congress as a coequal branch. For that particular person, they may want to study up on civics 101. Senators, thank you both very much. Our round table ready to weigh
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