Trump friend clashes with White House over special counsel claims

Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy, who is close friends with President Trump, lashed out Tuesday at White House press secretary Sean Spicer and the communications team over a disagreement about whether the president might look to squash a special investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Ruddy made waves in a Monday interview on PBS Newshour, telling anchor Judy Woodruff he’d been at the White House and that he could report that Trump is considering having former FBI director Robert Mueller, who is leading the special investigation, removed.

“I think he’s considering perhaps terminating the special counsel,” Ruddy said. “I think he’s weighing that option.”

Ruddy noted that Jay Sekulow, a member of Trump’s legal team, left the option on the table in a Sunday interview with ABC News. Ruddy, who met with undisclosed officials at the White House on Monday, also said his own sources indicated Trump was considering having Mueller removed.

“I will not reveal who my sources are, but I felt confidence in saying it and it was consistent in what the president's own attorney said,” Ruddy said in a Tuesday interview on MSNBC.

Many conservative legal experts and Trump allies — including Ruddy — are warning Trump strongly against removing Mueller, saying it would backfire spectacularly and lead to charges of obstruction.

Ruddy says that Spicer asked him to issue a follow-up statement or a tweet indicating that he never spoke to Trump about firing Mueller and so does not know first-hand that it is something the president is considering. 

When Ruddy declined, Spicer issued his own statement.

“Mr. Ruddy never spoke to the President regarding this issue,” Spicer said. “With respect to this subject, only the president or his attorneys are authorized to comment."

Ruddy says he has not talked to Trump about Mueller but insists that his sourcing on the story is air tight. Ruddy says he does not believe Trump will follow through on his consideration to remove Mueller.

“I did not talk to the president about the issue,” Ruddy said. “I do not believe he will fire him, I think if he did fire him it would be a mistake. I do believe he has a legal right to do it and I do think it was considered as an option, as the president’s own attorney said.”

Still, Spicer’s remarks irked Ruddy, who says he should not have been asked to release a statement saying that he never spoke to the president because he never claimed to have spoken with the president about Mueller.

"I have talked to the president recently but we did not talk about the Mueller situation at all," Ruddy said. "I spoke to him last week. He called me and we had a good chat. We did not talk about the Mueller investigation, but I still stand by it was being considered as an option, or at the least, the information I had as of yesterday and again, the president’s own attorney had said this."

Ruddy lashed out at Spicer and the White House communications team in a Tuesday interview on MSNBC, calling their behavior “amateur hour” and accusing them of failing the president.

“I think the White House communications office is doing a disservice to the president by not focusing on the fact that you have several top prosecutors with [special counsel] Mueller that have donated to Obama and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonProminent Putin critic: If Trump turns me over, I'm dead Dems unveil slate of measures to ratchet up pressure on Russia Trump tweets old video of Clinton talking up 'a strong Russia' MORE campaigns,” Ruddy said.

“I think if you're putting out press releases at 11:00 at night saying that Chris Ruddy did not speak with the president on this matter, when I never said I did, it is ridiculous, isn't it? ” he continued. “I think the president himself gave his own communications department a C-plus. They have had a lot of fumbles.”

Ruddy also defended himself against allegations, made by MSNBC anchor Kristen Welker, that he is not as close to the president as he claims.

"I don’t know who you’re talking to because I’ve had great contact with the president through many years," Ruddy said. "I consider him a friend."

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDems unveil slate of measures to ratchet up pressure on Russia National Dems make play in Ohio special election Trump vows to hold second meeting with Putin MORE (R-Wis.) on Monday accused the media of ginning up a fake storyline about Trump considering firing Mueller. But the narrative has gotten oxygen from Ruddy and former Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has urged Trump to end the investigation.

Deputy acting attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Justice Department’s investigation into Russia because attorney general Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsRosenstein warns of growing cyber threat from Russia, other foreign actors Key GOP lawmaker throws cold water on Rosenstein impeachment With new immigration policy, Trump administration gutting the right to asylum MORE has recused himself, has the power to fire Mueller.

Rosenstein testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that he has no reason to believe the special counsel has been compromised and no reason to remove Mueller.

Still, Trump’s allies are looking to sow doubt, pointing to donations some on Mueller’s team have made to Democrats.

“This is an illegitimate special council,” Ruddy said. “There is no underlying crime and no allegation of a crime.”