WASHINGTON — One of Donald Trump’s friends said Monday he believes the president is considering dismissing special counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed to lead the FBI investigation into Russia’s potential ties to the 2016 election.
“I think he’s considering perhaps terminating the special counsel,” Christopher Ruddy — who was at the White House on Monday — said on “PBS NewsHour.” “I think he’s weighing that option.”
A source close to the president said Trump is being counseled to steer clear of such a dramatic move such as firing the special counsel.
“He is being advised by many people not to do it,” the source said.
And a person familiar with Trump’s thinking said Tuesday morning that it’s “unlikely” the president will fire Mueller, but conceded that it’s often difficult to predict Trump’s behavior.
“No one is recommending that,” the person said, noting, however, the option hasn’t been ruled out.
Regarding Ruddy’s comments, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said: “Mr. Ruddy never spoke to the president regarding this issue. With respect to this subject, only the president or his attorneys are authorized to comment.”
And deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said simply: “Chris speaks for himself.”
Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax Media, based his Mueller comment on a television interview with one of Trump’s lawyers. When asked about the interview Ruddy said: “My quote is accurate.”
He said he thinks firing Mueller “would be a very significant mistake, even though I don’t think there’s a justification … for a special counsel.”
In a statement Tuesday morning, Ruddy disputed Spicer’s comments.
“Spicer issued a bizarre late night press release that a) doesn’t deny my claim the president is considering firing Mueller and b) says I didn’t speak to the president about the matter — when I never claimed to have done so. Memo to Sean: Focus your efforts on exposing the flim-flam Russian allegations against POTUS and highlighting his remarkable achievements! Don’t waste time trying to undermine one of your few allies.”
Mueller was appointed FBI director by President George W. Bush in 2001 and served until 2013, when James Comey took over as head.
Since being appointed special counsel in May, he has built a team of formidable legal minds who’ve worked on everything from Watergate to Enron.
He has long been widely respected by many in Washington from both sides of the aisle, with many lawmakers praising Deputy Attorney General Rob Rosenstein’s pick.
Still, not everyone is a fan.
Earlier this week, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich reportedly told radio host John Catsimatidis that Congress should “abolish the independent counsel.”
“I think Congress should now intervene and they should abolish the independent counsel,” the former House speaker said. “Because Comey makes so clear that it’s the poison fruit of a deliberate manipulation by the FBI director leaking to the New York Times, deliberately set up this particular situation. It’s very sick.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, disputed that report.
“I don’t think Newt said that,” Graham said. “I think it’d be a disaster. There’s no reason to fire Mueller. What had he done to be fired?”
After news of Ruddy’s interview surfaced, Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, echoed that sentiment on Twitter.
“If President fired Bob Mueller, Congress would immediately re-establish independent counsel and appoint Bob Mueller,” the California lawmaker tweeted. “Don’t waste our time.”
Schiff later said he wouldn’t be surprised if Trump was considering ousting Mueller.
“You have to hope that common sense would prevail,” Schiff said. “But it wouldn’t surprise me at all, even though it would be absolutely astonishing were (Trump) to entertain this. The echoes of Watergate are getting louder and louder.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan, however, did say he would be “surprised” if Trump fired Mueller.
“I think he should let Bob Mueller do his job, do his job independently, and do his job quickly, because I think that that’s what he would want to have happen,” Ryan told conservative commentator Guy Benson.