Published: Mon, June 19, 2017
USA | By Angel Wallace

Schiff says firing Mueller would echo Watergate

Schiff says firing Mueller would echo Watergate

It is in this environment of slavish sycophancy that the rumor that Trump is considering firing special counsel Robert S. Mueller, an otherwise unthinkable attack on the independence of the Justice Department, quickly gained currency, igniting a Monday evening media firestorm.

Because Sessions had recused himself from the Russia investigation over his connection to Trump's campaign and his undisclosed meetings with the Russian ambassador, it was Rosenstein's decision to appoint a special counsel to lead the investigation. Online news mogul Chris Ruddy said: "I think he's weighing that option..."

The White House forcefully disputed Ruddy's claims, saying he speaks for himself, not the president.

Huckabee -- on a trip with Trump, also told reporters aboard Air Force One that the president thought Attorney General Jeff Sessions "did a very good job" in testimony before Congress on Tuesday.

SCOTT PELLEY: Well, after Comey was sacked, the Justice Department named former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to independently investigate the Russian Federation case.

Until now, Mueller had drawn widespread praise from Republicans and Democrats alike.

In February, after talking with Trump at Mar-a-Lago, Ruddy told CNN that he didn't think the president was being well-served by chief of staff Reince Priebus.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Tuesday he had confidence in Mueller and that he should be left alone to conduct an independent investigation, NPR's Susan Davis reports. Newt Gingrich, who is close to Trump, tweeted: "Republicans are delusional if they think the special counsel is going to be fair". He added that fundraising records show some of the lawyers whom Mueller selected for his team have contributed to Democrats. Trump has suggested there might be tapes of his encounters with Comey; Comey said last week that "lordy" he hopes there are. Comey said he and other Federal Bureau of Investigation officials expected Sessions to recuse himself before it was publicly announced but would not discuss why they came to that conclusion.

A spokesman for the office of the special counsel declined comment. In general, it is impermissible to ask prospective government hires about their political leanings, including whether they've made donations.

Less than a month ago, he called Mueller a "superb choice", someone whose "reputation is impeccable for honesty and integrity".

His comments appeared to take the White House by surprise.

Ruddy issued a terse response directed at Spicer, but also admitted he didn't speak to Trump personally about this.

"I think it would be unusual [Mueller] would have a confidential conversation and then, a few days later, become the prosecutor of the person he may be investigating", Ruddy said.

Trump interviewed Mueller for the director's position days before Rosenstein picked Mueller as special counsel for the Russian Federation probe, Sanders confirmed Tuesday.

Aaron Blake writes the Plum Line blog for The Washington Post, which features reported opinion from a progressive perspective.

Hours after the interview, White House press secretary Sean Spicer released a statement that did not deny the claim, but said, firmly yet evasively, "Mr Ruddy never spoke to the president regarding this issue". Mueller should likewise step away because he has a potential personal conflict of interest, having been a longtime friend of a crucial witness, Comey, and Comey's key ally at the most important moment of his career.

CHRIS RUDDY: Well, I think he's considering perhaps terminating the special counsel.

Since being appointed special counsel in May, he has built a team of formidable legal minds who've worked on everything from Watergate to Enron.

Trump believes that Mueller, a friend of Comey's, is part of a partisan "witch hunt" against him. If Sessions did recuse himself, it would fall to Rosenstein to fire the guy who he'd appointed weeks earlier. Ruddy agrees that the move would be a wrong move, but dismissed the investigation Mueller is overseeing.

"I think that he should be more cognizant of making sure that the people who come to work with him are non-partisan, for his own credibility", Bennett said of Mueller.

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