White House torn over Mueller's role as pressure grows

Questions about Mueller's job security swirled through Washington on Monday evening after Chris Ruddy, the CEO of NewsMax and a longtime Trump confidant, told PBS that the president was mulling the possibility of firing the special counsel.

Rosenstein is the only person who can fire Mueller under current Justice Department regulations - though those regulations could theoretically be set aside.

The Times reports that Trump was talked out of firing Mueller by his staff, but this isn't the last that we are probably going to hear about the President trying to fire someone who is investigating him because that is what guilty people do.

Rosenstein is charged with Mueller's fate because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from all matters having to do with the Trump-Russia investigation. That decision would fall to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who testified Tuesday in a Senate budget hearing that he would only fire Mueller for good cause and has seen no evidence of that. "I'm not going to follow any orders unless I believe they are lawful" and that "it wouldn't matter what anybody said".

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich led one line of attack with a tweet that said "Republicans are delusional if they think the special counsel is going to be fair".

Trump's best play would be to allow Mueller to do his job without interference, and - if Trump is telling the truth - declare the issue is dead for lack of substance.

The talk about dismissing Mueller appeared to be coming from Trump allies - including some close to White House strategist Steve Bannon - who are increasingly frustrated with the prospect of a long and winding probe.

In every practical sense, Trump is stuck with Mueller. "I think there's a conflict there". Trump, who isn't typically shy about leveling criticism, especially on Twitter, hasn't commented on the longtime former Federal Bureau of Investigation director.

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

Rosenstein offered his assurances as USA news accounts quoted Republican allies of Trump suggesting that the president is considering firing Mueller, whose appointment last month drew widespread praise from both Republicans and opposition Democrats.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters Tuesday that he had confidence in Mueller and called reports that Trump might fire Mueller "rumors".

Gingrich also said Trump is confident that Mueller will find he did nothing wrong, but Gingrich worries. "Ruddy never spoke to the president regarding this issue", Spicer said.

According to a senior White House aide, there are no private conversations taking place about firing Mueller, and a White House spokesperson said Ruddy "speaks for himself".

The White House again Monday refused to say one way or the other whether there was a tape.

Firing another investigator will force even his allies in Congress to deal with constituents who will demand to know if their president is neither.

The Justice Department declined CBS News' request for comment.

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