Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said Tuesday he's seen no basis for firing Robert Mueller, the former FBI director he appointed as special counsel to oversee an investigation into potential coordination between the Trump presidential campaign and Russian Federation.
The Wisconsin Republican commented in response to a Trump friend, Chris Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax, who suggested Monday night that the president was already thinking about "terminating" Mueller from his position as special counsel. "Newt, whatever you think you're getting in return for obsequiously sliming an American hero, I guarantee you it's not worth it. Stop".
The White House did not immediately respond to questions about Ruddy's claims.
"Director Mueller is going to have the full degree of independence that he needs to conduct that investigation appropriately", Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told a Senate appropriations subcommittee, referring to special counsel Robert Mueller.
Sessions has recused himself from the investigation. Trump surrogates like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich don't believe Trump would take such an explosive step. He is expected to field his own questions from the committee about the firing of FBI Director James Comey and the Russian Federation investigation at large.
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.
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There's had been little indication from Republicans that they would take Mueller's dismissal so seriously ― until today. Rosenstein would be the one to fire Mueller, which he repeatedly assured senators Tuesday he would not consider without "good cause".
Just weeks ago, Gingrich had heaped praise on Mueller, hailing him as a "superb choice" for special counsel whose reputation was "impeccable for honesty and integrity". If Rosenstein refused, Trump could fire him and continue down the line until a DOJ official acquiesced.
Rosenstein repeatedly conveyed his support for Mueller's role at a Senate hearing, held the morning after a close friend of President Donald Trump was quoted in a television interview as saying he was considering dismissing Mueller. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. An order from the president would not necessarily qualify, he said.
Because Sessions had recused himself from the Russia investigation over his connection to Trump's campaign and his undisclosed meetings with the Russian ambassador, it was Rosenstein's decision to appoint a special counsel to lead the investigation.
Mueller served as Federal Bureau of Investigation director from 2001 to 2013 under both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations.
Spicer, the spokesman, declined to say then that Sessions enjoyed Trump's confidence, though spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said later in the week that the president had confidence "in all of his Cabinet".