President Donald Trump is “considering” firing former FBI Director Robert Mueller, appointed by the Department of Justice to lead the investigation into ties between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials, a friend said Monday.
“I think he’s considering perhaps terminating the special counsel. I think he’s weighing that option,” Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy told PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff on Monday.
Ruddy, a personal friend of the president, was spotted at the White House earlier in the day.
According to Neal Katyal, the former acting U.S. solicitor general, Trump could direct Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller, to fire the former FBI director. (Rosenstein’s boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has recused himself from the Russia investigation.)
The president also could order the regulations pertaining to the office of special counsel repealed, according to an article by Katyal published in The Washington Post last month:
The regulations provide that Mueller can “be disciplined or removed from office only by the personal action of the Attorney General” (again, Rosenstein here, because Sessions is recused) and only for “good cause.” The president, therefore, would have to direct Rosenstein to fire Mueller — or, somewhat more extravagantly, Trump could order the special-counsel regulations repealed and then fire Mueller himself.
One of Trump’s attorneys, during an interview on Sunday, wouldn’t rule out the possibility the president would fire the special counsel.
“Look, the president of the United States, as we all know, is a unitary executive,” Jay Sekulow said on ABC’s “This Week.” “But the president is going to seek the advice of his counsel and inside the government as well as outside. And I’m not going to speculate on what he will, or will not, do.”
Sekulow said that he “can’t imagine” such a situation, but added that it is “an issue that the president with his advisers would discuss if there was a basis.”
Ruddy said in his PBS interview that firing Mueller would be “a very significant mistake,” even though he didn’t believe the appointment of the special counsel was proper. Ruddy claimed that Mueller was “under consideration” to lead the FBI, a position vacated after Trump fired James Comey, and that he spoke to the president about it.
“There’s some real conflicts,” Ruddy said. “It would be strange that he would have a confidential conversation and then a few days later become a prosecutor of a person he may be investigating.
“I think Mueller should have not taken the position if he was under consideration and had a private meeting with the president and was privy maybe to some of his thoughts,” Ruddy added.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, reacted to Ruddy’s interview on Twitter.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), who had also questioned Mueller’s independence, said Tuesday morning that he does not think Trump would fire Mueller.
“I think the president actually is pretty confident that ultimately, this is all going to come out in the wash, and ultimately he’s still going to be president, and this stuff’s all going to go away,” Gingrich told “CBS This Morning,” adding that he spoke to Trump Monday evening. However, Gingrich still insisted that Mueller leading the investigation was “a rigged game.”
This article has been updated with Gingrich’s comments.