A close friend of President Donald Trump said Monday that Trump is "considering" firing special counsel Robert Mueller, the former FBI director the Justice Department put in charge of the Russia investigation.
NewsMax Media founder Christopher Ruddy said on the PBS program "Newshour" that he thought Trump is "weighing that option" but added it would be a mistake.
"I think he's considering perhaps terminating the special counsel. I think he's weighing that option," Ruddy said. "I think it's pretty clear by what one of his lawyers said on television recently. I personally think it would be a very significant mistake, even though I don't think there's a justification [for the special counsel]."
Ruddy could not say, however, that Trump suggested that to him directly. Instead he told Fox News he was "confident of my sourcing." The White House responded that Ruddy did not speak to Trump on the matter:
When reached by Fox News after the remarks, Ruddy said, "while I am not claiming the president said it to me, I am confident of my sourcing. He is definitely considering it as an option."
Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said Ruddy "never spoke to the president regarding this issue. With respect to this subject, only the president [or] his attorneys are authorized to comment."
The New York Times reported that to fire Mueller, Trump would have to order Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein to turn back regulations that protect ta special counsel from being fired for no good reason. If Rosenstein refused, Trump could fire Rosenstein.
A CNN source said Trump is being advised not to fire Mueller. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will likely be asked about the matter when he testifies Tuesday in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, tweeted Trump would waste everyone's time by dismissing Mueller.
If President fired Bob Mueller, Congress would immediately re-establish independent counsel and appoint Bob Mueller. Don't waste our time.
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) June 12, 2017
"They're clearly afraid of Mueller and his independence and the thoroughness of the investigation he's likely to lead," Schiff told MSNBC on Monday. "You can't exclude the possibility, but I think it's just a way of raising doubts about this very good man respected by people on both sides of the aisle."
Mueller was appointed to lead the investigation in May, fulfilling the wishes of former FBI Director James Comey. Comey testified Thursday that, after he was fired by Trump, he leaked the memo of when Trump hoped Comey would let go of the Michael Flynn investigation, in hopes of prompting the appointment of a special counsel.
CNN reported Mueller has been "quietly and methodically" building a team of seasoned legal minds that have worked on high-profile cases like Watergate and Enron.