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FBI Director Robert Mueller testifies before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee at an oversight hearing about the Federal...

Republican senators consider resolution to protect special counsel Mueller’s job

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican senators are floating an alternative to bipartisan legislation that would protect special counsel Robert Mueller’s job — a nonbinding resolution endorsing him.

The Senate Judiciary Committee was expected to vote Thursday on the bill, which would give any special counsel a 10-day window to seek expedited judicial review of a firing. Two Republicans and two Democrats introduced it earlier this month as President Donald Trump publicly criticized Mueller, who is investigating potential ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 campaign as well as possible obstruction of justice by the president.

Many Republicans oppose the bill and say it’s unconstitutional. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said the protection is unnecessary and that he will not have a full Senate vote of the legislation.

Now, at least two senior Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee say the best alternative may be a nonbinding resolution that would convey to the White House a “sense of the Senate” that Mueller should be left alone to do his job.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, wrote about the idea in The Wall Street Journal, and Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, backed it.

The resolution “may be a way forward because it avoids the unconstitutionality issue on a bill that the president won’t sign and the House won’t pass,” Cornyn said. “So that may be a place for us to land, because, as I have said, I think it would be a mistake” for Trump to fire Mueller. “I think if we can come to some common ground on a resolution that may be the way forward.”

WATCH: Trump anger over FBI raids sparks speculation of Mueller firing

Trump’s legislative director, Marc Short, said in a broadcast interview Sunday that “as far as I know, the president has no intention of firing” either Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees Mueller’s investigation. Short said he couldn’t rule it out in the long term, though, because it’s not known “how far off this investigation is going to veer.” Trump has said the Mueller investigation is “an attack on our country” and is “corrupt.”

Sponsors of the bipartisan bill hope they can advance the legislation to the full Senate and win GOP support. GOP Sens. Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Democrats Chris Coons of Delaware and Cory Booker of New Jersey have been negotiating with the committee chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley, on a possible agreement.

Grassley, R-Iowa, had said he would offer an amendment that would increase reporting to Congress from the special counsel. Democrats have said they have concerns the amendment could jeopardize the investigation.

The senators introduced two separate bills last August when Trump first started to publicly criticize Mueller. That legislation stalled for months, but was revived and the two bills were combined this month as Trump fumed about a raid of his personal lawyer’s office, in an investigation overseen by federal prosecutors in New York.