Trump reportedly at the brink with Rosenstein; believes he can fire Mueller, too

Trump reportedly at the brink with Rosenstein; believes he can fire Mueller, too

(CNN/RNN) – President Donald Trump is reportedly seriously considering firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and at the same time believes he has the authority to fire special counsel Robert Mueller.

Rosenstein appears to be in the more precarious position.

Monday FBI raids on Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, reportedly infuriated the president. Rosenstein is said to have directly signed off on the raids as the top Justice Department official with authority over the Russia investigation.

The raids were prompted by a referral from Mueller, answering to Rosenstein. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe at its beginning.

CNN reported the president has long considered firing Mueller, and The New York Times has reported he twice even attempted to do so, but was ultimately convinced not to.

In scathing comments following the Monday raids, Trump said "we'll see what happens" when asked why he hadn't already gone ahead with firing Mueller.

Then on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the president "certainly believes he has the power" to fire Mueller.

"The president's been clear that he thinks that this has gone too far," she said.

Trump technically does not have direct authority to remove Mueller. That lies with Rosenstein.

But, as President Richard Nixon did during the 1973 Saturday Night Massacre that resulted in the removal of Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox, Trump could fire top Justice Department officials down the line of succession until someone carried out the order.

If Trump were to remove Rosenstein, and install a new deputy attorney general who shares his view that the Russia investigation is a "witch hunt," it could seriously impede Mueller's work.

Right now, Mueller has to get approval for most actions from Rosenstein.

The possibility also looms that Trump could fire Sessions and install a new attorney general who would have the authority to take back control of the Russia probe from Rosenstein.

While the raid in New York was carried out by the office of the U.S. Attorney for New York, Trump reportedly is blaming his top law enforcement officials, Sessions and Rosenstein, as well as Mueller.

"I think it's a disgrace what's going on," he said on Monday.

He tweeted on Tuesday, declaring attorney-client privilege "dead" and said simply: "A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!!!"

Democrats have warned Trump not to fire Mueller, and so have some Republicans.

The majority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-KY, said Mueller "should be allowed to finish his job" while Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-IA, said "it would be suicide for the president to fire him."

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