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Flake Vows to Block All Judicial Nominees Until Senate Votes on Bill to Protect Mueller

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) speaks with reporters at capitol

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) today vowed to block all judicial nominees after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked his effort to bring a bipartisan bill to the floor to protect the special counsel.

Flake, along with Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), asked for consent to bring the bill to the floor, but McConnell exercised the rule by which one senator can block the request.

McConnell had told reporters earlier that he continues to believe legislation to protect Robert Mueller's Russia probe isn't necessary.

"I mean, there's been no indication -- as you can imagine, I've talked to the president fairly often -- no indication that the Mueller investigation will not be allowed to finish. And it should be allowed to finish," he said. "We know how the president feels about the Mueller investigation, but he's never said he wants to shut it down. I've never heard anybody down there say they want to shut it down. I think it's in no danger, and so I don't think any legislation's necessary."

Flake, though, noted that the bill passed the Judiciary Committee on a bipartisan vote in April.

"This bill is designed to do one thing: protect the integrity of the Special Counsel’s investigation, and spare it of any interference from the executive branch, including from those who may themselves be subjects of the investigation," he said on the Senate floor after McConnell's objection.

"How such an investigation could be a cause of controversy is beyond me – surely we all recognize that it is essential to understand this new form of foreign aggression so that we might better defend America against such attacks in the future, right?" he asked. "One would think that there would be unanimous national resolve to get to the bottom of such aggression from an enemy foreign power, especially a foreign power with whom we spent much of the second half of the 20th century locked in a global ideological struggle, especially when in their renewed aggression toward us they have targeted the institution that we have and they don’t – free and fair elections."

"...But some of us in Washington have seemed strangely incurious about just what the Russian malefactors did to America in 2016 at the direction of Vladimir Putin."

Flake argued that McConnell's position on the necessity of the legislation "is not arguable anymore" since the firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and appointment of Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, an open critic of the Mueller investigation.

"We – all of us - talk much here in this place in defense of 'all that we hold dear.' Those are the words that we speak. All that we hold dear. But what do we actually mean by those words? And do we really mean it when we say them? Speaking personally, I cannot think of values held more 'dear' than the independence of our judicial system and an electoral system free of malign influence, either foreign or domestic," Flake continued. "When I think of the things that we hold most dear, those things are right at the top of the list. It is our sworn oath to keep it that way."

"One further note on this unanimous consent request: because it has failed today, Senator Coons and I are prepared to raise it again and again, until there is a vote on this vital bipartisan legislation on the Senate floor," he added. "And I have informed the majority leader that 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 a confirmation vote on the floor, until S. 2644 is brought to the full Senate for a vote."