A handful of House Republicans have endorsed legislation that would protect special counsel Robert Mueller from any attempt by President Donald Trump to remove him, even as GOP leaders insist that such legislation is unnecessary.
Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) introduced a version of the bill on Friday, and on Monday, fellow Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick signed on as a cosponsor. Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) signed onto an identical version of the bill that Democrats introduced last week.
The new GOP support for the bill comes despite continued assurances from Republican leaders in the House and Senate that Trump wouldn't dare fire Mueller.
"We do not believe that he should be fired. We do not believe he will be fired," Speaker Paul Ryan said Tuesday morning.
Ryan has repeatedly attributed his confidence in that assertion to conversations he's had with White House officials, and he declined to say whether Trump himself had given such a promise.
Ryan’s remarks come despite recent New York Times reports that Trump has twice ordered Mueller to be fired, including as recently as December, only to be reeled in by staff and his legal team. The president continues to rage publicly about the expanding probe.
A bipartisan bill to protect Mueller in the Senate has also drawn interest from a slew of Republicans, though it's unclear if it would garner the 60 votes necessary for passage.
The Senate Judiciary Committee could advance the bill later this week, though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has tamped down expectations that it will receive a floor vote. The measure's cosponsors include Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and Thom Tillis.
Dent said his bill is identical to the Senate version. He introduced it Friday along with Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.).
On Tuesday, Dent announced he would resign from Congress next month. He previously had said he would retire at the end of this term.