White House Torn Over Mueller's Role as Pressure Grows

A Senator Just Tore Into Jeff Sessions for Bailing on a Key Hearing

President Trump was considering firing Robert Mueller as special counsel leading the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election but was talked down by top aides, according to a new report.

PBS's Judy Woodruff reported Monday that Trump friend Chris Ruddy told her after visiting the White House that Trump is "considering perhaps terminating" Mueller - a decision that would set off a massive political backlash.

His comments appeared to take the White House by surprise.

House Speaker Paul Ryan says the White House and President Donald Trump should let the special counsel's investigation continue, and await vindication. They're appointed by the attorney general, and under normal circumstances, it's the attorney general who has the authority to fire them.

There is no reason to fire the independent head of the FBI investigation into possible collusion between Russian Federation and the Trump campaign, the Justice Department's number two said Tuesday. "Spoken like a man with nothing to hide", he joked, breaking into Trump voice: "Officer, I did not steal that vehicle, and there would be nothing wrong if I did because stealing's not illegal, right?" In the past, some of those private expressions of anger have been made public by friends and associates, only to generate speculation about moves that never take place - including a senior staff shake-up that has yet to happen.

So far, Mr Trump has only directed his criticism at former FBI Director James Comey. If Rosenstein refused, Trump could fire him, too - a series of events that would recall the "Saturday Night Massacre" during Watergate, when President Richard M. Nixon sought to dismiss a special prosecutor, Archibald Cox.

Ruddy lashed out at Spicer and the White House communications team in a Tuesday interview on MSNBC, calling their behavior "amateur hour" and accusing them of failing the president.

Trump supporters such as Newt Gingrich and others have seemed to be greasing the wheel for the eventual ouster of Mueller.

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"If there were not good cause, it wouldn't matter to me what anybody says".

"Republicans are delusional if they think the special counsel is going to be fair".

Why should the firing of Mueller play out much differently than the firing of Comey? We don't have to believe former FBI Director James Comey's account of Trump's threats and blandishments.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the No 2 official at Justice, also promised on Tuesday (Wednesday NZ Time) that the special counsel, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, would have the independence to pursue the investigation as he saw fit.

Ruddy argued that Mueller should not have taken the job of special counsel because he was under consideration for the other position, and had had the private meeting with the president for the Federal Bureau of Investigation director appointment.

Trial balloon? That Atlantic speculates that Ruddy could be deliberately floating the idea to see how it flies, noting that he's done so previously with, among other things, statements in regard to Reince Priebus.

Since the Justice Department's ethics office has already decided that Mueller doesn't have a conflict resulting from his law firm's representation of Trump family members, that argument looks soft. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) pointed out on Twitter that, if Trump fired Mueller, Congress could get to choose the next special counsel - and it might end up being Mueller.

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