Then FBI Director Robert Mueller arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., May 16, 2012, to testify during a hearing.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Would Trump fire Special Counsel Mueller during the investigation?


Former FBI Director Bob Mueller is the Justice Department’s special counsel, overseeing the investigation into the expanding Russia scandal, which now reportedly includes allegations that Donald Trump obstructed justices. There’s no shortage of questions surrounding the controversy, but among them is what kind of job security Mueller currently enjoys.

A Trump confidant this week said, for example, the president has “considered” firing Mueller. Christopher Ruddy, a longtime Trump ally, added, “I think he’s weighing that option.”

The comments caused quite a stir, and it was soon bolstered by a report from the New York Times.

Last month’s appointment of Robert S. Mueller III as a special counsel to investigate possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia enraged President Trump. Yet, at least initially, he holstered his Twitter finger and publicly said nothing.

But behind the scenes, the president soon began entertaining the idea of firing Mr. Mueller even as his staff tried to discourage him from something they believed would turn a bad situation into a catastrophe…. For now, the staff has prevailed…. But people close to Mr. Trump say he is so volatile they cannot be sure that he will not change his mind about Mr. Mueller if he finds out anything to lead him to believe the investigation has been compromised.

Note, this report was published before we learned that Trump is now himself the subject of a criminal investigation as part of Mueller’s overall probe.

What’s worth considering  whether this means Trump is more likely to fire Mueller or less likely.

Possibility #1: Trump can’t go after Mueller now. Even if the president finds this confusing, someone from Trump World has probably told him that going after the special counsel, as some of his allies have recommended, would put his presidency in even more severe jeopardy. Nixon tried to pull this stunt at the height of Watergate with the “Saturday Night Massacre,” and if Trump did the same thing, this scandal would go nuclear. It’s not complicated: there’s little he could do to appear more guilty than firing the special counsel investigating him and his political operation.

Possibility #2: Trump will be desperate to go after Mueller now. Look, the erratic president, unconcerned with limits and norms, has already fired the director of the FBI, dozens of federal prosecutors, and the acting U.S. attorney general. The special counsel’s investigation is getting progressively closer to the Oval Office, making Trump himself the subject of a probe the president apparently sees as illegitimate. If he’s been “entertaining the idea of firing Mr. Mueller,” it stands to reason that urge will be even stronger now, consequences be damned.

I’m not in a position to say which of these options will prevail, but let’s not forget that Trump is one of the very few people who’s directly aware of the degree to which he’s guilty. It’s that knowledge that will likely, in the end, dictate his actions.