The high-powered investigators looking for evidence of collusion last year between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the Russian government are themselves being investigated by President Trump’s aides and lawyers.
According to numerous media reports, the White House trying to find ways to undermine the credibility of the investigators corralled by special counsel
The counter-investigation includes reviewing political contributions made by members of Mueller’s team, past clients that the investigators represented, and Mueller’s ties to former FBI Director James B. Comey, whose firing in May is part of the Russia probe, according to the New York Times.
Republicans, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, have pointed to political donations to Democrats made by members of Mueller’s team as evidence of a political bias. But Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, a Trump appointee who assigned Mueller with the task of overseeing the Russian probe, told senators last month that he sees no conflicts of interest in the donations, many of which occurred before 2016.
In an eye-opening interview with the New York Times on Wednesday, one that reportedly caught Trump’s advisors off guard, the president ignited speculation he’s considering firing Mueller should the investigation veer toward Trump’s business dealings as part of the investigation.
However, only Rosenstein has the authority to dismiss the former FBI director, which means Trump would have to replace one of his own appointees (Rosenstein) with someone willing to fire Mueller. Bloomberg pointed out that this would be a bold move, echoing President Richard Nixon’s infamous “Saturday Night Massacre” in which U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson and his deputy resigned instead of obeying Nixon’s order to fire the special prosecutor involved in the Watergate investigation.
"It would be unprecedented in American history for a president to be successful in removing that special counsel and dictating the terms of an investigation into possibly him and his family and his associates," Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro told CNN.
Efforts to undermine Mueller’s investigation are part of an increasingly caustic relationship between the White House and the Department of Justice. In the interview with the New York Times, Trump said he would have picked a different attorney general had he known Jeff Sessions would recuse himself from the investigation into Russian election-meddling.
By condemning Sessions and threatening Mueller should the investigation look into Trump’s private business dealings, the president appears either to be testing the limits of his authority, or is unaware of the limits to his power.
Meanwhile, all of this boundary-testing and saber-rattling by the president appears to be too much for some. Politico reports that Mark Corallo, the spokesmen for Trump’s legal team, has resigned after two months on the job. According to people familiar with the matter, Corallo didn’t like the strategy of attacking Mueller’s credibility, nor was he sure he was being told the truth about “various matters.”