White House: Trump 'has no intention' of firing Mueller

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE — President Trump has “no intention” of firing Robert Mueller as special counsel leading the Russia investigation, the White House said Tuesday. 
 
“While the president has the right to, he has no intention to do so,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters flying with Trump back to Washington from a day trip to Wisconsin. 
 
The comment is intended to tamp down speculation about whether the president would ax Mueller, which would be a politically explosive move that could further embroil his administration in controversy.
 
Republicans on Capitol Hill have called on Trump not to fire Mueller after a close friend of the president's, Chris Ruddy, said in interviews this week that Trump was considering terminating the special counsel investigating possible ties between his campaign and Moscow.

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Some rank-and-file Republicans on Tuesday voiced concerns that ousting Mueller a month after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey would appear to be obstruction of justice.

Mueller was appointed by the Justice Department to helm the investigation after Trump abruptly fired Comey — who was the one previously leading the Russia probe — in early May.

Mueller's hiring was meant to ensure the probe would be conducted without interference. Firing him would breathe new life into accusations that Trump is trying to interfere in the probe.

Some Trump allies have begun this week to criticize the investigation led by Mueller, who served as director of the FBI under former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaGOP rep: North Korea wants Iran-type nuclear deal Dems fear lasting damage from Clinton-Sanders fight Iran's president warns US will pay 'high cost' if Trump ditches nuclear deal MORE and who is widely respected among lawmakers from both parties.

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), who said he spoke with Trump on Monday night, raised questions about the fairness of the Mueller-led probe. Gingrich noted that at least four members of Mueller's team had donated to Democratic presidential campaigns and groups, saying it’s “time to rethink” Mueller’s role.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein noted during a Senate hearing Tuesday that he, and not Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsRhode Island announces plan to pay DACA renewal fee for every 'Dreamer' in state Mich. Senate candidate opts for House run instead NAACP sues Trump for ending DACA MORE, was the one with authority to hire and fire Mueller.

Rosenstein told lawmakers that he had not seen good cause to fire the special counsel.

The remarks from Ruddy, the CEO of the conservative Newsmax outlet, added intrigue to Sessions’s testimony Tuesday afternoon before the Senate Intelligence Committee, where he refused to discuss his conversations with Trump.

Sanders said Trump saw part of Sessions's testimony and “thought that Attorney General Sessions did a very good job and, in particular, was very strong on the point that there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.”