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

Trump friend: Mueller 'illegitimate as special counsel'

Trump friend: Mueller 'illegitimate as special counsel'

Senior White House aides pushed back on a claim Monday that President Donald Trump is considering directing the deputy attorney general to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is now leading the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

If Mr Trump instructs Mr Rosenstein to dump Mr Mueller, it would evoke memories of 1973, when two top Justice Department officials, Mr Elliott Richardson and Mr Bill Ruckelshaus, resigned rather than obey then President Richard Nixon's order to fire Mr Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor conducting the Watergate investigation. "If there were not good cause, it would not matter what anybody says".

On Tuesday night White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters flying with Trump on Air Force One that the president wasn't going to fire Mueller, tamping down such rumors.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein says he will "defend the integrity" of the special counsel's investigation into Russian interference in the USA elections. Trump called because "I have been very clear" about Mueller and the lawyers he's hired amounting to a "rigged game", Gingrich said.

"I appointed him. I stand by it. and I am going to defend the integrity of that investigation", he said.

The topic of both hearings is the Justice Department's budget.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., raised questions regarding Mueller's independence, however.

Shortly after Mueller's appointment was announced last month, Trump floated the idea of firing him, but staffers sought to squash the idea, which they believed would "turn a bad situation into a catastrophe", The Times reported Tuesday.

President Trump has railed against the Russian Federation investigation, describing it as a "witch hunt". He described Mueller as operating independently from the Justice Department in his investigation.

Mueller was appointed special counsel for the Russian Federation investigation after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey early last month.

According to the New York Times, Trump "thinks the possibility of being fired will focus [Mueller] on delivering what the president desires most: a blank public exoneration".

Trump supporters such as Newt Gingrich and others have seemed to be greasing the wheel for the eventual ouster of Mueller. The reason he gave is that it could be "within the scope of Director Mueller's investigation" and that "we don't want people talking publicly about open investigations", he said.

David Ignatius, a columnist with The Washington Post, cautioned that firing Mueller would be a unsafe move by the president.

Rosenstein may be asked to address the issue when he speaks at a Senate subcommittee hearing Tuesday morning.

Mr Sessions vigorously denied having an undisclosed meeting with Russia's ambassador to the US.

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