Jeff Flake Votes Against Donald Trump Judicial Nominee After GOP Again Blocks Robert Mueller Protection Bill

Outgoing GOP Senator Jeff Flake voted against advancing a controversial Trump judicial nominee, as previously promised, after Senate Republicans again blocked a bipartisan measure to protect special counsel Robert Mueller from being fired.

The procedural vote for Thomas Farr, which passed by a vote of 51-50 after Vice President Mike Pence broke the tie, will allow the Senate later this week to officially vote on whether or not to confirm the nominee for the Eastern District of North Carolina. Farr has been vehemently opposed by Democrats for his past work helping North Carolina Republicans institute voter suppression measures.

Flake's vote against advancing Farr came after GOP Senator Mike Lee blocked an attempt by Flake and Democratic Senators Chris Coons and Cory Booker to pass a Mueller protection bill. GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to hold a vote since the bill passed the Judiciary Committee in April. The bill received the support of both Democrats and Republicans on the committee.

Flake previously said he will vote against advancing any of the president's judicial nominees until the Mueller protections are, at the very least, voted on.

Had Lee not prevented the bipartisan measure to pass the bill, which was supported by Coons and Booker with short speeches on the Senate floor, McConnell was expected to block it.

"Some of my colleagues have said this legislation isn't necessary because there hasn't been any indication that Mr. Mueller will be removed from office," Flake said on the Senate floor. "But when the president is tweeting on a daily basis that the special counsel is conflicted, that he's leading so-called '12 angry Democrats,' and demeaning and ridiculing him in every way, to be so sanguine about the chances of him being fired are folly for us."

Flake referenced, in addition to the president's rhetoric against Mueller and the investigation, Trump's ousting of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions immediately after the midterm elections and his appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting-attorney general. Whitaker, a previous outspoken opponent to Mueller and his investigation, now oversees the probe, causing some to wonder whether Trump or Whitaker may try to fire the special counsel.

"It's clear something has to be done to protect Mueller's investigation," Flake said.

Lee objected the Mueller protection bill because he argued it was unconstitutional by taking away Trump's executive power to fire Mueller, citing concerns over separation of powers.

"We cannot convert an office like [Mueller's] without creating a defacto fourth branch of government, fundamentally undermining the principal of separation of powers that is so core to our liberty," Lee said in objection to the Mueller protection bill.

Jeff Flake Votes Against Trump Judicial Nominee After GOP Again Blocks Robert Mueller Protection Bill
U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) (L) and Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) (R) speak to members of the media during a news conference on the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act November 14 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images