President Trump might order the Justice Department to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is heading an investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election and any ties to the Trump campaign, longtime Trump friend Christopher Ruddy told PBS NewsHour on Monday. Other Trump allies, like Newt Gingrich, have switched from praising Mueller's integrity and honesty to questioning whether he can be impartial.
Ruddy, chief executive of the conservative Newsmax Media and a member of Trump's Mar-a-Lago club, said that Trump understood from last week's bombshell testimony from former FBI Director James Comey that Trump wasn't personally alleged to have committed any crime. That makes Mueller's investigation "highly unusual" and "politically driven," he argued.
PBS' Judy Woodruff asked Ruddy, who said he spoke with Trump on Friday, if Trump is "prepared to let the special counsel pursue his investigation," and Ruddy shrugged. "Well, I think he's considering perhaps terminating the special counsel," he said. "I think he's weighing that option; I think it's pretty clear by what one of his lawyers said on televisions recently. I think it would be a very significant mistake, even though I don't think there's a justification" for a special counsel, and he suggested that Mueller is compromised because his law firm represented some members of the Trump family and Trump had interviewed Muller for the FBI director position before he was appointed special prosecutor.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that while Ruddy was at the White House on Monday, he had not met with Trump there and doesn't speak for the White House. "Chris Ruddy speaks for himself," Spicer said. "With respect to this subject, only the president or his attorneys are authorized to comment." Ruddy was likely referring to lawyer Jay Sekulow's comments on ABC News Sunday that he wouldn't speculate on Trump firing Mueller but he also "can't imagine the issue is going to arise."
Ruddy confirmed to The Washington Post that he believes Trump is considering firing Mueller, and a senior White House official told The New York Times that Trump had interviewed Mueller for FBI director the day before Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had chosen him as special counsel. Trump has the authority to order Rosenstein to lift Justice Department rules protecting Mueller's independence and then fire him, though doing so would incur a political cost.