Over the past few weeks, many Trump partisans have been encouraging the president to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Calls for Mueller’s dismissal have only increased amid the revelations that one of the FBI agents assigned to Mueller’s team sent private emails to his mistress in which he called Trump an “idiot.” On Sunday, President Trump attempted to put to rest speculation that Mueller is about to be shown the door.
“No, I'm not,” Trump replied when asked by reporters if he was considering firing Mueller.
The president then asked, “What? Are you surprised?”
The president also dismissed concerns by his lawyers that the Mueller team had improperly obtained emails from the Trump transition team. “I can't imagine there's anything on (the emails), frankly, because as we said, there's no collusion. No collusion whatsoever," Trump said. "But a lot of lawyers thought that was pretty sad.”
Whether the president can fire legally Mueller is the subject of debate. Whether the president could directly fire the special counsel appointed by the Department of Justice is a gray area, but Trump could fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and replace him with someone willing to fire Mueller. It is also a gray area as to whether such actions by the president would constitute obstruction of justice.
Although many Republicans have grown critical of Mueller’s probe, Democrats have warned the president not to interfere. A move by the president to interfere with the Russia investigation could lead to impeachment charges if the Democrats win control of Congress next year.
“Firing Bob Mueller without cause would be clearly obstruction of justice,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.).
A second possibility is that Republicans will appoint a second special counsel to investigate allegations of bias in the Department of Justice. Such a move would be less confrontational than firing the special investigator, but would also give Republicans ammunition to discredit Mueller’s findings.
President Trump does seem to have learned a lesson since last spring. His abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey led directly to the Mueller investigation and sparked a firestorm that threatened to turn even many Republicans against him. This time, the president seems to be biding his time and attempting to undermine Mueller’s investigation by eroding confidence in his objectivity and integrity.
Trump’s statement was a not a pledge not to fire Robert Mueller, but it does seem that Mueller’s dismissal is not imminent, as many had feared. The president may just be waiting for a more opportune moment to make his move.
Originally published on The Resurgent