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Top aides talked Trump out of firing Mueller

20 June 2017

CNN's April Ryan on Monday described "mass hysteria" in the White House over concerns the president is considering terminating special counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed by Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein to oversee the Russian Federation investigation.

On Trump's plane ride home after a trip to Wisconsin, Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters he "has no intention" of firing Mueller, even though she maintained that "the president has the right to".

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said Tuesday on ABC's "Good Morning America" that while he feels "independent counsels are very unsafe", he doesn't think Trump should force Mueller out.

In 1973 President Richard Nixon ordered his attorney general to fire Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor who was leading the Watergate investigation. Trump called because "I have been very clear" about Mueller and the lawyers he's hired amounting to a "rigged game", Gingrich said. Reports are circulating that Trump's inner circle is unanimous in trying to persuade the president not to fire Mueller.

Under Justice Department rules, Mr. Trump would seemingly have to order Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein to rescind department regulations protecting a special counsel from being fired for no good reason, and then to fire Mr. Mueller.

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The Justice Department declined CBS News' request for comment.

A number of key Republicans have publicly advised Trump to keep Mueller.

But Ruddy opened a new line of questions about Mueller's impartiality - the fact that Trump had considered Mueller for the Federal Bureau of Investigation director's job before he was named special counsel. The interview took place several days before Rosenstein picked Mueller as special counsel for the Russian Federation probe, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the interview, which was first reported by PBS.

No such allegations against Trump or anyone on his staff have been made, Ruddy said.

The White House again Monday refused to say one way or the other whether there was a tape. 'I think he's weighing that option.

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"I will not reveal who my sources are, but I felt confidence in saying it and it was consistent in what the president's own attorney said", Ruddy said in a Tuesday interview on MSNBC. Ruddy agreed, but noted that the White House statement never denied what he said was true. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

The discussion on Mueller's investigation came after some of Trump's closest allies - including one of his sons - began questioning whether the wide-ranging probe is becoming too political.

"I don't think Trump should do anything but the congressional Republicans ought to look into it", Gingrich said.

Gingrich and Ruddy said it would be a "mistake" for Trump to remove Mueller, although both said they see the probe as unnecessary. Trump later said he was thinking about "this Russia thing" as he chose to dismiss him because he considered claims that Russian interference in the election influenced it in his favor to be bogus, an excuse by Democrats to account for his stunning upset of Clinton.

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