Hopefully putting to rest another narrative in which the press went off on a wild goose chase, after the CEO of Newsmax Chris Ruddy first said in an interview on Monday that he thought Trump was considering firing the special prosecutor on the Russia investigation, Robert Mueller, and then the NYT boldly followed, the White House said late on Tuesday that President Trump has “no intention” to fire Mueller.
On AF-1, @SHSanders45 told reporters Pres Trump has “no intention” to fire Robert Mueller as special counsel, though he has the right to.
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) June 14, 2017
“While the president has the right to, he has no intention to do so,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders (who earlier today was rumored would soon be replacing Sean Spicer) told reporters flying with Trump back to Washington from a day trip to Wisconsin.
Despite Trump’s lack of commentary on the matter – and Trump would have quickly made it very clear if he indeed wanted Mueller out in one of his morning tweetstorms – some rank-and-file Republicans on Tuesday, gripped by the media frenzy, voiced concerns that ousting Mueller a month after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey would appear as obstruction of justice. Somehow the fact that Trump originally conceded to the appointment of a special prosecutor was lost on most.
Mueller was appointed by the Justice Department to helm the investigation after Trump abruptly fired Comey – who was the one previously leading the Russia probe – in early May. Mueller’s hiring was meant to ensure the probe would be conducted without interference.
Meanwhile, not helping was Newt Gingrich, who said he spoke with Trump on Monday night and raised questions about the fairness of the Mueller-led probe. Gingrich noted that at least four members of Mueller’s team had donated to Democratic presidential campaigns and groups, saying it’s “time to rethink” Mueller’s role.
Earlier on Tuesday, Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who appointed Mueller and continues to oversee the investigation, promised lawmakers he would not permit Mueller to be dismissed without legitimate reason. “As long as I’m in this position, he’s not going to be fired without good cause,” Rosenstein said. “I’m not going to follow any orders unless I believe those are lawful and appropriate orders,” he said, emphasizing that the attorney general “actually does not know what we’re investigating.” He added, “Director Mueller is going to have the full independence he needs to conduct that investigation appropriately.”
And still the vortex of speculation grew.
Finally, also on Tuesday, the NYT elbowed its way into the NewsMax inspired media frenzy, and reported that “behind the scenes, the president began entertaining the idea of firing Mr. Mueller even as his staff tried to discourage him from something they believed would turn a bad situation into a catastrophe.”
Who were the NYT’s sources? The usual suspects: “several people with direct knowledge of Mr. Trump’s interactions” and “one longtime Trump associate who remains close to the White House.”