- REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
- President Donald Trump is in a bind over his desire to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, who is overseeing the Russia investigation.
- Trump reportedly had to be reined in after he ordered Muller fired in June 2017. White House counsel Don McGahn threatened to resign over the president’s directive and Trump backed off, according to multiple reports published Thursday.
- The president’s legal advisers have sought to calm him by telling him the investigation is almost over, and Trump has repeated those assertions in recent weeks.
President Donald Trump appears to be boxed in over his desire to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, the man in charge of the Russia investigation.
In a pair of reports published by The New York Times and The Washington Post on Thursday that revealed Trump ordered Mueller fired in June 2017, the newspapers noted that the president and his advisers came to a sobering realization after Trump was coaxed back from the brink: Mueller has rock-solid job-security. The Times called it “an omnipresent concern among the president’s legal team and close aides.”
Experts have warned that firing Mueller could only create more problems for Trump and his close associates who are subjects in the Russia probe.
To keep Trump’s mind at ease over the investigation, Trump’s lawyers have been telling him that it’s almost over – despite multiple indications to the contrary.
The probe has only gained momentum with more-recent news that Mueller has interviewed Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former FBI director James Comey. Revelations that Trump’s lawyers have been negotiating terms for a possible sit-down between the president and Mueller also seem to suggest more, not less, momentum.
Mueller has also subpoenaed former chief strategist Steve Bannon, who shared some unflattering information about Trump and his family which were included in a tell-all book on the Trump administration.
In a statement on Thursday night, Sen. Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said firing Mueller is a “red line” that Trump “cannot cross.”
“Any attempt to remove the Special Counsel, pardon key witnesses, or otherwise interfere in the investigation, would be a gross abuse of power,” Warner said. “All members of Congress, from both parties, have a responsibility to our Constitution and to our country to make that clear immediately.”
Mueller apparently knows that Trump has already tried to fire him, according to The Times’ report, and that could add fuel to a possible evaluation of whether Trump obstructed justice.
Political experts have noted that Trump’s actions in the early aughts of Mueller’s investigation could suggest as much, partly because he unsuccessfully sought Comey’s loyalty before firing him.
Trump’s other actions include:
- Unsuccessfully pressuring Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from probe.
- Pressuring Comey to “let go” of the FBI’s investigation of his former national-security adviser Michael Flynn.
- Pressuring congressional lawmakers to publicly declare that he was not personally under investigation.
- Taunting the deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe and reportedly asking him who he voted for in the 2016 election.
Trump has also openly questioned the US intelligence community’s assessment that Russia sought to tilt the 2016 election in his favor. He has repeatedly insisted that he committed no wrongdoing, and has not been formally accused of a crime.