Political News

Q&A: Can Donald Trump fire Robert Mueller?

Posted June 13

Can President Donald Trump dismiss special counsel Robert Mueller, who is appointed to lead the FBI investigation into Russia's potential ties to the 2016 election?

Statements made by Trump's friend Christopher Ruddy set off many new questions Monday night.

Ruddy, who had been at the White House Monday, told PBS' Judy Woodruff that "I think he's considering perhaps terminating the special counsel."

"I think he's weighing that option," he said referring to Trump.

A source close to the President told CNN's Jim Acosta that Trump is being counseled to steer clear of such a dramatic move like firing the special counsel.

"He is being advised by many people not to do it," the source said.

Who can fire Mueller?

Technically, it's up to the attorney general to decide what to do with the special counsel.

"The attorney general is the one who has to fire him," said CNN's senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin on "Anderson Cooper 360." "(Attorney General) Jeff Sessions is recused here, so it would be up to (Deputy Attorney General) Rod Rosenstein, who was the person who just appointed Bob Mueller a couple of weeks ago."

Sessions previously recused himself from any involvement in the Russia investigation due to his role as a prominent campaign adviser and surrogate.

So that would leave such a decision to Rosenstein, who just appointed Mueller on May 17 to oversee the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Why would Trump consider firing Mueller?

Mueller has been widely respected by many in Washington from both sides of the aisle, but not everyone is a fan.

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

He brought on three partners from his former law firm, WilmerHale, with significant litigating experience in high-stakes cases.

But three of the five lawyers brought by Mueller have donated overwhelmingly to Democrats, according to a CNN analysis of Federal Election Commission records.

-- James Quarles contributed $32,800 to Democrats and $2,700 to Republicans from 1998 to 2016.

-- Jeannie Rhee contributed $16,450 to Democrats from 2008 to 2016.

-- Andrew Weissmann previously gave $2,300 to Barack Obama's first presidential campaign in 2008 and $2,000 to the Democratic National Committee in 2006.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, an informal adviser to the President, questioned whether the special counsel investigation would be impartial. "Republicans are delusional if they think the special counsel is going to be fair. Look who he is hiring.check fec reports. Time to rethink," he tweeted.

Last month, Gingrich had tweeted: "Robert Mueller is superb choice to be special counsel. His reputation is impeccable for honesty and integrity."

Why would Trump's friend discuss this publicly?

This is unclear.

"Mr. Ruddy never spoke to the President regarding this issue," White House press secretary Sean Spicer said. "With respect to this subject, only the President or his attorneys are authorized to comment."

Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said simply: "Chris speaks for himself."

Ruddy told PBS he thinks firing Mueller "would be a very significant mistake, even though I don't think there's a justification ... for a special counsel."

Several theories abound so far.

Matt Lewis, a CNN political commentator, said Trump has a pattern of surprise moves, such as the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

"In this case, we have what could serve as a trial balloon," he said on "Anderson Cooper 360," suggesting that it might be a way to test public reaction.

Would there be a Russian investigation if Mueller is fired?

After news of Ruddy's interview surfaced, Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, tweeted: "If President fired Bob Mueller, Congress would immediately re-establish independent counsel and appoint Bob Mueller. Don't waste our time."

Schiff told CNN's Anderson Cooper if Mueller was ousted, Congress would have to re-establish the Independent Counsel Act that expired following the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

"We're not going to let the President choose who conducts this investigation," he said.

The act was widely criticized after Kenneth Starr's lengthy investigation into Clinton, and in 1999, Congress allowed the independent counsel provisions of the law to lapse.

While in theory it is possible that Congress could reauthorize the independent counsel law, it would not necessarily be smooth sailing given that Republicans control Congress.


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  • John Archer Jun 13, 9:40 p.m.
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    Quit watching Alex Jones and trash conspiracy theory sites. They have poisoned your mind. Even his family says you're wrong, so please stop trashing that young man's memory.

  • Renee Warren Jun 13, 6:46 p.m.
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    Remember the great commercial of Wendy's w/ the lil' old lady hollerin' "where's the beef?!" OK, since it appears that's the situation regarding deep friend Russian burgers, how 'bout Sessions just calls Muller, Rodstein and crew in for a quick meeting, tellin' them they get to keep their special counsel committee but to please redirect their attn now to WTH killed Seth Rich?

    There's a petition floating around for WH to consider calling for this very thing. I think that would be a much better use of our taxpayers $$ that actually pay our illustrious officials.

  • Andrew Stephenson Jun 13, 3:40 p.m.
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    Have you heard the term "Part of 'No'"? You should google that, if you need a refresher of what happened in politics between 2009 and the most recent election.

    There is even a documentary about it.

  • Andrew Stephenson Jun 13, 3:29 p.m.
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    This straight up made me LOL. It's as if you took the words out of a comment about Obama's presidency from 2014 but swapped names.

  • John Archer Jun 13, 3:14 p.m.
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    Lordy, try to keep up. Comey said POTUS wasn't under investigation AT THE TIME HE WAS ASKED! No doubt, he has painted himself right into being investigated since then. The GOP is so bad at this. They smeared HRC and Obama with investigation after investigation, millions of tax dollars WASTED, and found absolutely nothing. Now, when there is almost overwhelming evidence that Russia is embedded in our Federal government and interfered in our election, you guys don't even care. It's like you want our democracy to fail. At this point, the Democrats are the only true patriots in this country any more.

  • Clarence Drumgoole Jun 13, 1:30 p.m.
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    I look forward to Trump's Resignation soon.

  • Scott Patterson Jun 13, 1:23 p.m.
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    Actually they are there to investigate ties to Russia and the undermining of our democracy and if any Americans had a hand in it... but who cares we will all be speaking sputnik in 4 years anyways.

  • Nick Holt Jun 13, 12:57 p.m.
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    AG Sessions should fire the Special Counsel. He was supposed to investigate Trump & Russia but Comey said he wasn't under investigation.

  • Scott Patterson Jun 13, 11:58 a.m.
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    Only you people dont think this is a big deal. You people being the ones that can say no bad about 45. With the amount of fire power he has acquired, trust me... there will be criminal charges against several members of 45's people and probably 45 himself. If evidence wasnt there the attorneys involved would be much smaller in numbers.

  • Raleigh Rose Jun 13, 11:52 a.m.
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    Just a reminder of McConnell's statement that Republicans would fight everything Obama tried to do and that the would do his best to make Obama a one term POTUS. And this after Obama was Constitutionally elected twice and he won the popular vote and the electoral college. Republicans tried to take Obama to court over his birth certificate even though it was proven that Obama was born in Hawaii. If Trump had been honest and upfront from the first, released his tax returns and not had so many shady dealings with Russia between him and his staff and advisors we wouldn't need this investigation. Trump has no one to blame but himself for this.