In comments that are guaranteed to infuriate both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said President Trump believes he has the authority to dismiss Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Huckabee’s response to a question posed by a reporter during the daily press briefing is a marked departure from her stance from three weeks ago, when she said that the president had no plans to fire Mueller, citing a statement from White House lawyer Ty Cobb, per Sputnik.
“He certainly believes he has the power to do so,” Sanders said, in response to a reporter’s question at the daily press briefing.
Last night, Trump left the door open to firing Mueller after saying that the FBI raid on Cohen was a “disgrace.”
“We’ll see what happens,” Trump said, referring to Mueller’s future as special counsel.
Those comments were in response to news that FBI agents had raided the home, office and hotel room of Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen. FBI agents reportedly seized emails and other documents from Cohen’s law office - a cache that likely includes privileged communications between Cohen and Trump, his only client.
The response from lawmakers was swift, and included the requisite references to “constitutional crises” and “political suicide.”
US Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Tuesday that US President Donald Trump should avoid creating a constitutional crisis by removing Special Counsel Robert Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein from their positions, per Bloomberg.
“Any attempt to remove Rod Rosenstein will create the exact same constitutional crisis as firing Counsel Mueller,” Schumer told reporters, urging Trump to refrain from impeding the Russia investigation. Schumer also called on Republicans to join Democrats in drafting legislation to protect Mueller.
“I don’t think the president’s going to fire him. That would be a big mistake,” John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Senate Republican, said Tuesday.
Cornyn refused to speculate about how Congress might react or whether they would move to impeach.
“I don’t think he or I or anybody could predict what the consequences might be. So I think, just let Mr. Mueller do his job.”
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley said earlier during an appearance on Fox Business that “it would be suicide for the president to want to talk about firing Mueller.
“The main thing here is I have confidence in Mueller, the president ought to have confidence in Mueller,” Grassley said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Mueller should “be allowed to finish the job.”
Meanwhile, Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina, a Republican sponsor of a bipartisan bill meant to protect Mueller from firing, proclaimed Tuesday that the Judiciary Committee must act on the legislation urgently, before it’s too late.
Tillis added that he is discussing merging the bill, which he co-sponsored with Delaware Democrat Chris Coons, with a competing bill sponsored by Lindsey Graham and Cory Booker.
Two senior Democrats, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner of Virginia, said Tuesday that firing Mueller would cross a line with Congress - though Warner said he would not be “lured” into talking about impeachment at this point.
“And my hope would be that this president would take advice from his own Republican senators who said those actions would start the beginning of the end of his presidency,” Warner said.
Of course, this isn’t the first time that Trump has come close to firing Mueller. But given the risk of Mueller turning Cohen - a witness who would know where all the Trump Organization’s bodies are buried - into a cooperator, he might finally have the incentive he needs.