Senators Lindsey Graham, Cory Booker, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Richard Blumenthal introduced a bill today that they seem to think would forbid the Attorney General to fire a Special Counsel unless the AG files an action in federal court and proves that good cause exists for the firing. Problem is the bill doesn’t do that.
Here’s the operative text of the bill:
A special counsel appointed by the Attorney General, or any other official appointed by the Attorney General who exercises a similar degree of independence from the normal Department of Justice chain of command, may only be removed if the Attorney General files an action in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and files a contemporaneous notice of the action with the Committee on the Judiciary of the Senate and the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives.
If they mean to say what I think they mean to say, the drafters of this ball misplaced the word “only.” They should have written, “may be removed only if the Attorney General files an action . . .” But instead they wrote, “may only be removed if the Attorney General files an action.”
As written, the bill seems to suggest that if the Attorney General files the action in D.C. District Court and the notices in Congress, the only thing that can happen to the Special Counsel is that she gets canned. What they mean to say, I think, is that the only way the Special Counsel can get canned is if the Attorney General files the action in D.C. District Court and the notices in Congress.
Most likely, this bill will never become law. And probably no one interpreting it will be as persnickety and annoying as I am. But if you happen to work in the offices of Senators Graham, Booker, Whitehouse, or Blumenthal, maybe go ahead and move the word “only.” Just to be safe.