The rumor mill is swirling that President Trump is considering whether he is able to fire Robert Mueller who was recently appointed as a Special Counsel to investigate Russian tampering in the election. The information comes from a close friend of Trump who says that Trump is weighing the fallout of such a move.
Report from the New York Times:
A longtime friend of President Trump said on Monday that Mr. Trump was considering whether to fire Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating possible ties between the president’s campaign and Russian officials.
The startling assertion comes as some of Mr. Trump’s conservative allies, who initially praised Mr. Mueller’s selection as special counsel, have begun trying to attack his credibility.
The friend, Christopher Ruddy, the chief executive of Newsmax Media, who was at the White House on Monday, said on PBS’s “NewsHour” that Mr. Trump was “considering, perhaps, terminating the special counsel.”
“I think he’s weighing that option,” Mr. Ruddy said.
His comments appeared to take the White House by surprise.
“Mr. Ruddy never spoke to the president regarding this issue,” Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said in a statement hours later. “With respect to this subject, only the president or his attorneys are authorized to comment.”
I’m sure, as the story notes, that Trump is being advised against such a move, but does that ever matter with this president? If he has calculated that the outrage quotient is what he’s seeking on any given day, he may just pull the trigger and terminate him. There is a legal question over whether the President has the power to fire someone in this position, but here’s how that works, according to CNN:
Technically, it’s up to the attorney general to decide what to do with the special counsel.
“The attorney general is the one who has to fire him,” said CNN’s senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin on “Anderson Cooper 360.” “(Attorney General) Jeff Sessions is recused here, so it would be up to (Deputy Attorney General) Rod Rosenstein, who was the person who just appointed Bob Mueller a couple of weeks ago.”
So that would leave such a decision to Rosenstein, who just appointed Mueller on May 17 to oversee the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
In essence, Trump could instruct the Deputy Attorney General to fire Mueller despite having just hired him a short time ago. Would Rosenstein fire him? That’s another question but it seems as though if Trump really wanted Mueller gone, he could find a way to get it done.
Democrats are calling for impeachment if Trump were to make such a move, according to the liberal New Republic:
Democrats could also forestall Trump’s interference by stating that such extraordinary corruption would merit impeachment. Party leaders have been generally and unnecessarily sheepish about calling for Trump’s impeachment, but this would be a perfectly defensible place for them to draw a bright line. Getting ahead of the story would force Republicans to comment on the issue before Trump makes another reckless decision rather than after, hopefully limiting his options.
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer took a preliminary step in this direction on Monday, using the Senate floor to denounce the “shameful ploy” by Trump loyalists who are trying to undermine Mueller’s credibility.
Democrats have already been dancing around impeachment over the issue, but Republicans so far have held the line. If Trump were to fire Mueller rather than let him conclude an investigation, would that change the dynamic in such a way that some Republicans would start to peel away?
I doubt it will come to this since the testimony of James Comey did little to move the ball in either direction. What Comey did do is concede that there still is no hard evidence that Donald Trump or anyone directly in his inner circle colluded with Russia to alter the election outcome last year. Without some hard evidence there, impeachment is off the table so why would Trump give critics more ammunition by firing Mueller? I suppose the only reason is because he’s Donald Trump, and you can’t underestimate his ability to damage himself purely for egotistical reasons if the moment strikes him.