Published: Wed, June 14, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Trump's top lawyer to face questions on Russia, Comey

Trump's top lawyer to face questions on Russia, Comey

High-profile supporters of Donald Trump are turning on special counsel Robert Mueller, the man charged with investigating Russian interference in the United States election and possible collusion with Trump's campaign, with one friend of the president floating the possibility he could fire Mueller.

Christopher Ruddy, chief executive of Newsmax Media and a longtime Trump friend, said during an interview the president is considering "perhaps, terminating the special counselor".

Ruddy, an early donor to Trump's presidential campaign, was reportedly at the White House on Monday.

His reaction comes amid reports that U.S. president Donald Trump is considering sacking the man appointed to lead the Russian Federation investigation.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer did not explicitly endorse Sessions' appearance, saying in response to a question, "We're aware of it, and we'll go from there". Dianne Feinstein of California, Rosenstein testified that now he would have to assent to Mueller's firing because of Attorney General Jeff Sessions' recusal from investigations involving the 2016 campaign and that he would not now do so because he did not see the good cause that is required by the special counsel law. The Department of Justice appointed the former FBI chief to lead the investigation into Russian Federation following the firing of James Comey by President Trump.

Sessions was supposed to testify before the appropriations committees, as past attorneys general have, but on Saturday, Sessions wrote the chairmen of both committees and said he was sending his deputy attorney general to testify in his place.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, asked Rosenstein at a budget hearing Tuesday what he would do if Trump ordered him to fire Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the US elections and possible Russian ties to Trump's campaign.

The reports Mueller may be replaced drew immediate outrage from Democrats.

It would be hard to make the case, he said, that the experience of interviewing for Federal Bureau of Investigation director would make it impossible for Mueller to fairly exercise the broad discretion afforded to prosecutors. "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". "This is something that I think was a rumor", Ryan said.

"Senator, I'm not going to follow any order unless I believe those are lawful and appropriate orders", Rosenstein said.

Rosenstein said that if he fired Mueller, he would be required to explain it in writing. That decision would fall to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who testified Tuesday in a Senate budget hearing that he would only fire Mueller for good cause and has seen no evidence of that. Trump himself does not have the authority to directly fire the special counsel. Rosenstein was asked about it and answered this way, "You have my assurance that Director Muller will have the full degree of independence that he needs to conduct the investigation".

Ryan then added, 'So I think the best advice would be to let Robert Mueller do his job'.

Ruddy says he has not talked to Trump about Mueller but insists that his sourcing on the story is air tight. "I have confidence in Bob Mueller".

Ryan noted if Trump chose to fire Mueller, it would be a "big problem for him politically". He told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that "I don't think the Congress would sit still and allow the president to pick his own investigator".

The hearing will bring contentious questioning for Sessions and likely some uncomfortable moments for the Trump administration.

The public testimony Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence committee should yield Sessions' most extensive comments to date on questions that have dogged his tenure as attorney general and that led him three months ago to recuse himself from the Russian Federation probe.

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