Trump Indicates He's Not Considering Firing Special Counsel

Updated on
  • Senate No. 2 Republican reject calls to remove special counsel
  • White House officials said there’s no talk of axing Mueller

Why Mueller Is Seen as the Perfect Man for the Job

President Donald Trump said Sunday he’s not considering firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Trump replied, “No, I’m not” in response to a reporter’s question about whether he intends to dismiss Mueller. He made the comment after returning to the White House from Camp David on the same day that John Cornyn, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, came to the defense of Mueller, saying it “would be a mistake” for Trump to fire the special counsel, even as many GOP lawmakers ramp up criticism of his probe.

Cornyn’s comments on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday came as a handful of congressional Republicans have called for Mueller’s firing. Representative Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, said in a radio interview on Friday that the “rumor” sweeping the Capitol was that Trump plans to fire Mueller on Dec. 22.

Trump’s lawyer, Ty Cobb, has denied the claim. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short also both pushed back Sunday on the notion that Trump was discussing a firing.

‘Public Trust’

Some Republican lawmakers have ramped up their criticism of Mueller and the staff working on the investigation. Trump, too, has seized on some of these questions, writing on Twitter that the FBI’s reputation is “in tatters.”

“The public trust in this whole thing is gone,” Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio said Dec. 13 during a House Judiciary Committee appearance by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller. During the hearing Rosenstein defended Mueller and said the investigation “is not a witch hunt.”

Cornyn said that he has confidence in Mueller, the former FBI director who was named in May to lead a probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Still, he joined many of his Republicans colleagues in casting doubt on the integrity of the investigation, repeating that Mueller should “eliminate” team members who had supported Democrats or were critical of Trump.

“I would just think he would be concerned about the appearance of conflicts of interest that would undermine the integrity of the investigation,” Cornyn said.

Anti-Trump Texts

Mueller recently removed an FBI official from the investigation as soon as his anti-Trump text messages were discovered. The recipient of the texts, who was also on Mueller’s team, had left by the time the exchanges were discovered.

“Mueller needs to clean house of partisans,” Cornyn said Saturday in a Twitter message to a Bloomberg reporter.

On Saturday, a lawyer for Trump’s presidential transition complained in a letter to two congressional committees about what he described as the “unlawful production” of tens of thousands of transitions emails to Mueller’s team by employees at the federal General Services Administration.

‘Consummate Professional’

Some of the materials are “susceptible to claims of privilege,” the lawyer, Kory Langhofer, said in the letter.

Asked by a reporter on Sunday whether he thinks the emails were improperly taken, Trump said “it’s not looking good” and “my people are very upset about it.” He also said “I can’t imagine there’s anything” on them and repeated that his campaign didn’t collude with Russia.

Mueller’s office defended the way the emails were the obtained.

“When we have obtained emails in the course of our ongoing criminal investigation, we have secured either the account owner’s consent or appropriate criminal process,” Peter Carr, a spokesman for the special counsel’s office, said in a statement to the New York Times and other outlets.

Doug Jones, Democratic Senator-elect from Alabama and a former federal prosecutor; said he’s confident the investigation is proceeding without bias and termed Mueller a “consummate professional.”

“I would be very surprised if Bob Mueller did anything that illegally obtained or anything like that,” Jones said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, days after his upset win over Republican Roy Moore.

Senator James Lankford, an Oklahoma Republican, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that “it’s serious any time you have an investigator within an investigation that has an obvious political bias whichever direction that goes.”

He added of the presence of an official critical of Trump, “I don’t think it taints the entire process. But it certainly taints that season of it.”

(Updates with Trump comment in second paragraph.)
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