While media surrogates for Donald Trump have recently suggested the president may fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller on television and online, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — who appointed the former FBI director to the post — told the Senate Appropriations subcommittee otherwise. Considering the manner in which Mueller has expanded the Justice Department’s Russia probe — including combining separate investigations of Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn into one — several reports on Monday began indicating Trump was considering taking action.
When Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) asked Rosenstein whether or not Trump had discussed Mueller’s appointment as special counsel, the deputy AG remarked, “No he has not.” As for whether or not he would fire the special counsel if the president ordered him to, Rosenstein noted Trump — or whoever else was legally able to make such a request — would have to have good reason. “I’m not going to follow any orders unless I believe those are lawful and appropriate orders,” he explained. “Under the regulation, Special Counsel Mueller may be fired only for good cause, and I am required to put that cause in writing.”
Without a “good cause,” he concluded, “It wouldn’t matter to me what anybody says.” And while Rosenstein here sounds like he may be overstepping his powers as the deputy AG, remember that on all things Russia he is the acting head of the Justice Department following Jeff Sessions’ recusal. Hence why Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) confirmed Rosenstein was “actually the one exercising hiring and firing authority” on this particular matter. “At this point, have you seen any evidence for good cause of firing Special Counsel Mueller?” she asked. “No I have not,” Rosenstein answered.