This post has been updated.
A White House lawyer is refuting a rumor voiced by Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo) that President Donald Trump intends to fire special counsel Robert Mueller before Christmas.
On Saturday, White House special counsel Ty Cobb told CNN that no such plans exist:
“As the White House has consistently said for months, there is no consideration of firing the special counsel,” Ty Cobb, the White House special counsel, told CNN in a statement.
Speier told KQED Newsroom on Friday that she believes Republicans are trying to shut down the House Intelligence Committee’s probe into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
“I believe the President wants all of this shutdown,” Speier said when asked if she believed House Republicans were bowing to pressure from the White House. “The rumor on the Hill when I left yesterday was that the president was going to make a significant speech at the end of next week. And on Dec. 22, when we are out of D.C., he was going to fire Robert Mueller.”
Speier said if the president did fire Mueller, it would cause a constitutional crisis. “That is Saturday massacre 2.0,” she said, referring to President Richard Nixon ordering the firing of Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal. “Without a doubt there would be an impeachment effort.”
You can see the full interview with Speier below:
Trump cannot fire Mueller directly but could instruct Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who oversees Mueller’s investigation to do so. Rosenstein told members of the House Judiciary Committee this week that he would only fire Mueller for “good cause,” which he says does not yet exist. Rosenstein also told the committee that no one, including President Trump, has asked him to fire Mueller.
Fellow California representative, Adam Schiff (D-Los Angeles), voiced concerns similar to Speier’s about the Russia investigation on Twitter on Friday.
Schiff, who also sits on the House Intelligence Committee, says that no witnesses have been scheduled after next Friday, and that dozens of outstanding witnesses have not been contacted. He tweeted that there will be interviews next week, but they will be held out of state while important votes will be keeping members of Congress in Washington D.C.
When rumors swirled earlier this summer that Trump could fire Mueller, two bipartisan bills were introduced in Congress to make that more difficult by allowing a panel of three federal judges review any decision to fire a special counsel.
This is the latest chapter in Mueller’s monthslong investigation that has produced inflamed rhetoric on both sides of the political aisle.
Mueller was appointed by Rosenstein in May to oversee the Justice Department investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible ties to associates of Trump. In October, Mueller indicted Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates for several counts stemming from the investigation including conspiracy against the United States.
A few weeks earlier, George Papadopoulos, who had served as a foreign policy adviser to President Trump’s campaign, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about meeting a professor with Russian ties who had promised to provide “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
Earlier this month, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn also pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador after the election but before Trump took office. Mueller says Flynn is cooperating with his investigation. The next day, it was reported that Mueller had removed a member of his team who had exchanged anti-Trump text messages with another member of the team during the summer.
That incident has led to increase calls from Republicans that Mueller’s probe is politically motivated. Earlier this week, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz said that Mueller should be fired and called on other congressional Republicans to do the same.