As the Trump-Russia investigation deepens, the president's lawyers and aides are reportedly pursuing a new tactic. On Thursday, both The New York Times and The Washington Post reported that Trump's is supposedly searching for conflicts of interest among Robert Mueller's investigators. The news has led to speculation whether or not Trump could fire Mueller should he build a case against him.
Last year, former President Obama ordered U.S. intelligence agencies to investigate whether Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election — an investigation which Trump has called a "witch hunt." Trump has denied any cooperation with the Kremlin to rig his U.S. presidential win.
Even so, his team is supposedly going on the offensive by conducting its own investigation of Mueller and the Trump-Russia investigators. With enough evidence, Trump could justify firing Mueller or disqualifying any of the investigators from further participation. In what could be an attempt to accumulate evidence of conflicts of interest, Trump's lawyers and aides are reportedly digging through the political backgrounds of Mueller's team, researching any donations made to Democratic candidates, scouring the investigators' past clients, and even looking into Mueller's relationship with James Comey. Trump told The New York Times he was aware that members of Mueller's team had potential conflicts of interests and that he would reveal this information in the future.
The president and his aides are also trying to block Mueller's examination of Trump's financial history and business transactions. His associates argue this would go beyond the scope of the investigation and that Mueller should stick to matters related only to Russia and the 2016 election. Trump also told the The New York Times that his family's finances are off limits and if Mueller crossed that line, it would be a "violation."
In a further, unconfirmed attempt to take control of the probe, Trump is reportedly consulting with advisers about whether he has the authority to pardon individuals who could be implicated in the Russia investigation. Sen. Mark Warner, who sits on the U.S. Senate intelligence committee, described this news as "extremely disturbing," according to The Guardian. However, an anonymous adviser claimed that Trump is merely reviewing the extent of his power to pardon — he is not actively trying to pardon himself for wrongdoing.
It's uncertain whether Trump would fire Mueller if given the chance, considering the strong backlash to his firing of Comey. If the president fires Mueller, it could be seen as an admission of guilt and obstruction of justice — both of which could be reason for a potential Trump impeachment.