During the White House press briefing on Tuesday, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the White House “has been advised” that President Trump has the power to fire special counsel Robert Mueller.
“I want to clarify something you said earlier — you said the president believes he has the power to fire Robert Mueller? Because usually most legal experts believe that he would have to order deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein to fire Mueller, and Rosenstein could of course refuse,” a reporter asked her.
“I know a number of individuals in the legal community and including at the Department of Justice that he has the power to do so, but I don’t have any further announcements,” Sanders said. “We’ve been advised that the president certainly has the power to make that decision.”
Sanders’ comments suggest that the White House has sought legal advice about Trump possibly moving on Mueller. That stands in contrast to what the administration was saying recently as last month, when a White House attorney for Trump said the president “is not considering or discussing” firing Mueller.
“In response to media speculation and related questions being posed to the Administration, the White House yet again confirms that the President is not considering or discussing the firing of the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller,” White House Counsel Ty Cobb said in a statement.
Since then, investigators raided the office of Trump’s longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen. Trump publicly acknowledged he’s considering firing Mueller on Monday evening during his first public comments after news broke of the raid.
“Why don’t I just fire Mueller? Well, I think it’s a disgrace what’s going on — we’ll see what happens — but I think it’s a sad situation when you look at what happened and many people have said you should fire him,” Trump said to reporters. “Again, they found nothing, and in finding nothing, that’s a big statement.”
On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer urged Trump not to fire Mueller, saying such a move would spark a “constitutional crisis.” But Republicans continue to be in denial about the possibility Trump will move on an official overseeing an investigation into his campaign for the second time in less than a calendar year.
“I haven’t seen an indication yet we need to pass something to keep him from being removed because I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters on Tuesday.
Republicans have consistently resisted legislative efforts to protect Mueller’s from Trump.