The White House says Donald Trump could fire Robert Mueller if he wanted to. Republicans on Capitol Hill still say he wouldn’t.
Trump’s rage is at peak after the FBI raids on lawyer Michael Cohen, his bully-boy fixer. The president’s morning tweets were primal screams: “Attorney–client privilege is dead!” “A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!!!”
Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the White House “has been advised that the president certainly has the power” to fire Mueller. By whom and how, she wouldn’t say.
Justice Department guidelines say that only Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — who is supervising Mueller’s investigation because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself — can dismiss Mueller, and only for cause.
Based on his comments and tweets, Trump would be happy to rid himself of all three of them. It wasn’t clear whether he thinks he can get rid of Mueller in a simpler manner. CNN said one option under consideration is firing Rosenstein to put new constraints on Mueller.
In President Richard Nixon’s 1973 Saturday night massacre, he fired two Justice officials who refused to sack the Watergate special prosecutor before the third in line carried out the order.
See Newsday’s story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.
A wall around Mueller? Not yet
“It would be suicide for the president to want to talk about firing” Mueller, said Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).
Not just Stormy
Federal prosecutors investigating Cohen are seeking records related to two women who received payments to keep their stories about affairs with Trump from going public, multiple reports said. Besides porn star Stormy Daniels, they’re also looking at the case of ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal, the report said.
Both McDougal and Clifford signed nondisclosure agreements just before Trump’s election in 2016, with Daniels taking $130,000 from Cohen and McDougal accepting $150,000 from American Media Inc., owner of the National Enquirer.
According to The Wall Street Journal (pay site), the prosecutors also have asked the Trump Organization for records relating to the Daniels payment.
Also of interest to the feds: information about Cohen’s associates in the New York City taxi industry. Cohen has been a longtime owner of New York City taxi medallions.
Janison: With liberty for me
A Trumpian shoutout for civil liberties is a rare phenomenon. But so is the FBI hauling away records from his lawyer-confidant and keeper of secrets.
The feds “broke into” Cohen’s offices, Trump complained. Actually, they entered the offices and residences with warrants.
“Attorney-client privilege is dead!” he wailed. No, it’s just not an absolute when a crime is suspected.
See Dan Janison’s column for Newsday.
Cohen: Regrets, he has a few
Cohen told CNN the agents in the raids were “were extremely professional, courteous and respectful. And I thanked them at the conclusion.”
But he said he was worried about what happens next. “I would be lying to you if I told that I am not. Do I need this in my life? No. Do I want to be involved in this? No.”
He maintained his actions in the Daniels matter were perfectly legal, but if he could go back, he’d rethink how he handled it. The Associated Press reports Cohen has confided in associates in recent weeks that he is fearful of being a fall guy.
Suspense builds on Syria
The last time Trump ordered a missile attack on Syria, he was enjoying chocolate cake with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago.
Whatever Trump is planning to answer the latest deadly chemical attack on civilians by Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s regime, he’s decided to stay closer to home.
Trump on Tuesday canceled plans to travel to South America this week, choosing to stay home to manage what U.S. officials hope will be a multinational response. He’s sending Vice President Mike Pence in his place.
Defense Secretary James Mattis also canceled a planned weekend trip to Nevada and San Francisco.
Another one bites the dust
As White House homeland security adviser, it was Thomas Bossert’s job to stay ahead of terrorism and cyberwarfare threats. But he didn’t see this one coming.
Bossert abruptly resigned Tuesday after being told that John Bolton, who took over Monday as national security adviser, wanted him out.
What else is happening
- Chinese President Xi Jinping promised Tuesday to cut China’s auto tariffs and improve intellectual property protection in possible concessions to Trump in their trade and tariffs dispute.
- EPA boss Scott Pruitt says he faced threats that justified his big expenses on security, but an internal EPA assessment obtained by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) undercuts the claim, The New York Times reported.
- Mike Pompeo, who as a GOP congressman lambasted Hillary Clinton over Benghazi, has sought and received her advice as he prepares for the confirmation process to become secretary of state, Politico reports.
- A tweet from conservative lawyer George Conway, husband of presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway, appeared to rebut Trump’s complaint that the raid on Cohen was an assault on attorney-client privilege.
- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg confirmed during testimony at a Senate hearing that the social media giant is cooperating with Mueller’s investigation.
- Sessions was at the White House for Trump’s welcome to the champion University of Alabama Crimson Tide football team. When asked if he had spoken to the president Tuesday, Sessions responded only with: “Roll Tide.”