US President Donald Trump is not considering firing the special counsel investigating Russian election interference, a top White House lawyer said, after a cascade of Trump tweets revived chatter that the deeply frustrated president might be preparing to can the veteran prosecutor.
In a first for Trump, he jabbed directly at special counsel Robert Mueller by name in weekend tweets that both challenged the investigation’s existence and suggested political bias on the part of Mueller’s investigators. Trump has long been frustrated by the lengthy and intensifying probe, and insists that his 2016 presidential campaign did not collude with Russia to influence the election in his favor.
“The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime,” he said in a late Saturday tweet that he ended with: “WITCH HUNT!”
Likely contributing to Trump’s sense of frustration, The New York Times reported last week that Mueller had subpoenaed the Trump Organization for Russia-related documents.
Trump had said Mueller would cross a red line with such a step.
“Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans?” he tweeted on Sunday.
Some of Mueller’s investigators indeed have contributed to Democratic political candidates, but US Department of Justice policy and federal service law bar discrimination in the hiring of career positions on the basis of political affiliation. Mueller is a Republican.
The tweets revived talk that Trump might, in an attempt to end the investigation, move to have Mueller fired, but White House lawyer Ty Cobb sought late Sunday to tamp down the speculation by saying that the president is not contemplating such a move.
“In response to media speculation and related questions being posed to the Administration, the White House yet again confirms that the President is not considering or discussing the firing of the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller,” Cobb said.
Deeply frustrated, Trump has fumed to confidants that the Mueller probe is “going to choke the life out of” his presidency if allowed to continue unabated indefinitely, according to an outside adviser who insisted on anonymity.
Trump has long believed that the entrenched bureaucracy, particularly at the Justice Department and FBI, is out to thwart him.
He fumed to one confidant after seeing a promotion for a forthcoming book by James Comey, the FBI director he fired last year, believing Comey would seek to enrich himself by besmirching Trump’s reputation. Comey’s book, A Higher Loyalty, topped Amazon.com’s best-seller list on Sunday.
The president also has long been torn over how to approach the probe. His legal team, namely Cobb, has counseled Trump to cooperate with Mueller, but some former campaign advisers have urged Trump to be combative, warning that the investigation poses an existential threat to his presidency.
Members of the US Congress warned Trump to not even think about terminating Mueller.
“If he tried to do that, that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency,” said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina, a Trump ally.
Democrat Senator Dick Durbin from Illinois called for the passage of bipartisan bills designed to protect Mueller that have stalled in Congress.
“This president is engaged in desperate and reckless conduct to intimidate his law enforcement agencies of this country and to try and stop the special counsel. That is unacceptable in a democracy,” Durbin said.
Trump cannot directly fire Mueller, who can only be dismissed for cause. Any dismissal would have to be carried out by Rod Rosenstein, the Trump-appointed deputy attorney general who has publicly expressed support for Mueller.
Aides and friends say they understand Trump’s frustration.
“When he says it’s a political witch hunt, I think he’s right,” said Christopher Ruddy, CEO of the conservative news Web site Newsmax and a longtime Trump friend.
Mueller is investigating whether Trump’s actions, including Comey’s ouster, constitute obstruction of justice.
The onset of summer has sparked a rise in incidents of “mask rage” in South Korea as more hot and bothered commuters either refuse to wear face coverings or leave parts of their faces exposed. In South Korea, Japan and other countries in East Asia, widespread mask wearing has been cited as one possible explanation for the region’s relative success in bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control. South Korea, one of the first countries outside China to be affected by the virus, flattened the coronavirus curve in April, although it is now struggling with dozens of daily cases, mainly in and around
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting
CHANGING PERCEPTIONS: In its tender, the Hong Kong administration said that it had failed to ‘mobilise the community to support law enforcement actions’ The Hong Kong government has agreed to pay millions of pounds to a discreet London-based PR firm to counter coverage of the territory in the international media. Consulum, which has also represented Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was on Monday awarded the ￡5 million (US$6.2 million) one-year contract to improve Hong Kong’s reputation — the same day that China passed national security legislation targeting the territory. The Mayfair-based PR business was founded by Tim Ryan and Matthew Gunther Bushell, two former employees of Bell Pottinger, an agency that has been criticized for representing some governments and leaders that other businesses