US senator threatens to block Trump’s judicial nominees until Senate votes on bill to protect Mueller

U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) speaks to members of the media after a meeting in the office of Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) September 28, 2018 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Alex Wong/Getty Images
  • Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake said he will not vote to advance President Trump’s judicial nominees until Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell allows a floor vote on the legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller.
  • Flake, who is retiring at the end of the year, has previously called for voting on the bill.
  • McConnell has a large amount of nominees he would like to confirm by the time the 115th Congress disbands in December.

WASHINGTON – Republican Sen. Jeff Flake announced Wednesday that he will not vote to advance judicial nominees sent by President Donald Trump unless Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell allows a floor vote on the bill offered by a bipartisan group to shield former FBI Director Robert Mueller and the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Flake attempted to request a vote on the bill on Tuesday, which is also sponsored by Democratic Sens. Chris Coons and Cory Booker. But McConnell objected to the unanimous consent request, prompting Flake to take action.

“Sen. Coons and I are prepared to make it again and again until there is a vote on this vital, bipartisan legislation on the Senate floor,” Flake said on the Senate floor. “And I have informed the majority leader I will not vote to advance any of the 21 judicial nominees pending in the Judiciary Committee or vote to confirm the 32 judges awaiting confirmation on the Senate Floor until S. 2644 is brought to the full Senate for a vote.”

“Some of us in Washington have seemed strangely incurious about just what the Russian malefactors did to American in 2016 at the direction of Vladimir Putin,” he added. “Our president has been so incurious that at times over the past two years, he’s been eager to accept Putin’s denials at face value.”

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Flake’s threat to withhold votes comes just one week after Trump forced Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign his post, replacing him with Sessions’ own chief of staff, Matt Whitaker.

Democrats and various groups have opposed Whitaker’s appointment to serve as acting attorney general, noting he has never been confirmed by the Senate in any capacity.

Whitaker, who has a long list of controversies surrounding him from his career before being a part of the Justice Department, has had to meet with ethics officials over whether or not he can oversee operations like the special counsel and related matters.

Despite the ousting of the attorney general and tirades from Trump, McConnell has repeatedly made clear he does not find the special counsel protection legislation necessary.

“It’s not necessary,” McConnell said on Friday. “The Mueller investigation is not under threat.”