Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein says no 'good cause' to fire special counsel Mueller
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told Senate appropriators on Tuesday that he has not seen any compelling evidence to justify the firing of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, seeking to put to rest recent speculation that President Trump may be considering getting rid of the special counsel.
In order to fire the special counsel, Rosenstein would have to see evidence of misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest or other good cause. Asked by numerous senators if he had seen "any evidence of good cause" to fire Mueller, Rosenstein affirmed, "No I have not."
Asked by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) whether he would follow instructions from Trump if asked to fire the special counsel, Rosenstein replied, "I'm not going to follow any orders unless I believe those are lawful and appropriate orders."
He continued that "if there were good cause, I would consider it. If there were not good cause it wouldn't matter to me what anybody says."
Over the weekend, Trump allies began raising the possibility of firing the special counsel, citing some possible good causes.
Christopher Ruddy, CEO of NewsMax said that he recently spoke with the president and believes he may be questioning Mueller's legitimacy. "I think he’s considering perhaps terminating the special counsel. I think he’s weighing that option," Ruddy told PBS Newshour.
Ruddy said he believes "there are some real conflicts" in Mueller's role as the head of the Russia probe, including the fact that Mueller served in a law firm that represents members of the Trump family, and took an interview with President Trump prior to being appointed special counsel.
The speculation about Mueller's dismissal also followed a statement from Jay Sekulow, a member of Trump's legal team. On Sunday, Sekulow left open the possibility that Trump would get rid of the special counsel, saying "I'm not going to speculate on what [Trump] will or will not do" with regard to Mueller.
Other Trump allies have suggested that the special counsel should be dismissed for conflicts of interest, specifically because of the close relationship between Robert Mueller and the fired FBI director James Comey.
Long-time Trump supporter Newt Gingrich took to social media to denounce the special counsel as unfair, encouraging people to look at the political contributions made by the individuals being hired as part of Mueller's investigative team.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) asked Rosenstein on Tuesday whether political contributions disqualify an individual from serving as special counsel in a case. Rosenstein answered that they do not.
Additionally, Rosenstein took the time during the appropriations hearing to affirm he had not spoken with President Trump "in any way" about the special counsel and that Mueller has "full independence" to conduct his investigation.
In all matters concerning the investigation of Russian election interference and possible collusion with the Trump campaign, Rod Rosenstein takes the lead. That includes making the decision on whether to fire the special counsel.
Normally, that responsibility would fall to the attorney general, but Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe after it was revealed that he had a series of meetings with Russian officials, which he failed to disclose to the Senate.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is scheduled to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee later on Tuesday afternoon where he can expect questions about the scope of his recusal from the Russia investigation.