Will Trump Fire Robert Mueller? The White House Wants The President To Hold Back — For Now
Even before a grand jury indicted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business associate Rick Scott, there were movements within the Trump administration to call for Mueller's ousting. Over the weekend, Trump tweeted "DO SOMETHING!" in regard to Mueller's probe into potential connections between Russia and the 2016 election, which Trump called a "witch hunt." Meanwhile, some of Trump's Republican colleagues have also publicly suggested Mueller resign. Will Trump fire Mueller, as some of his opponents and supporters alike believe he will? And if he does, what happens then?
The official word from the White House, at least at this early stage, is "no." CNN reports that Trump's advisers are strongly recommending that he not move to fire Mueller, as it would undercut the White House's official position that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. However, CNN noted that there is precedent for the President to ignore the recommendations of his team:
It's always an open question, of course, whether the President will follow advice of his team regarding Mueller.
To answer the most immediate question: Yes, if Trump so chooses, he can fire Mueller. After all, he fired F.B.I. director James Comey, who was in charge of the probe on Trump and Russia prior to Mueller — so there would certainly be precedent for Trump to deal with the problem of Mueller's probe by removing Mueller from the role.
But, another question is "does Trump want to fire Mueller"? Certainly, as the CNN report alludes to, Trump may not necessarily take his advisers' recommendation to heart. Additionally, given that Trump fired both Comey and acting attorney general Sally Yates, it's no secret that the president prefers to eliminate the problem by eliminating the role that provides it. At least superficially, Mueller is putting together an investigation that does not take any of Trump's wishes into account, and the president has already made his feelings known about Mueller's investigation with his "DO SOMETHING!" tweet.
Other Republicans have supported him, too. Rep. Trent Franks said in a statement to Fox News late last week:
The federal code could not be clearer — Mueller is compromised by his apparent conflict of interest in being close with James Comey ... The appearance of a conflict is enough to put Mueller in violation of the code ... [and] all of the revelations in recent weeks make the case stronger.
Chris Christie also spoke to Fox & Friends about the issue:
If the facts that you just laid out are true, then somebody with Bob Mueller's integrity will step aside and should — if in fact those facts, as you laid them out, are true.
So, what would happen if Trump did fire Mueller? Well, firstly, if some politicians have their way, he may not be able to. As Vox reports, two bills are already making their way through Congress that would hinder Trump being able to fire Mueller on a permanent basis.
But if Trump were able to fire Mueller, and he did so, there would be immediate consequences. MoveOn.org has already announced rallies in almost every state, should Mueller be fired.
This would be a constitutional crisis for our country. It would demand an immediate and unequivocal response to show that we will not tolerate abuse of power from Donald Trump.
Politically, Trump firing Mueller could be the straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak; Newsweek reports that the implications could be far-reaching.
As reporter Graham Lanktree writes, the President is technically only allowed to fire Mueller in the case of "misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest," or similar. Should none of these apply, and Mueller is fired anyway, Lanktree points out that legal scholars believe it could prompt a constitutional crisis.