President Donald Trump and his legal team “are exploring ways to limit or undercut special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest,” according to a Washington Post report. The president’s right-wing media allies have waged a months-long campaign against Mueller and his team, calling for Mueller to be fired or his investigation “to be shut down,” and citing supposed “conflicts of interest” among members of Mueller’s investigative team and even of Mueller himself.
Wash. Post reports that Trump’s legal team is “actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work”
Wash. Post: Trump’s lawyers “are actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work.” President Trump’s legal team is “actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his” months-long investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign. According to The Post, “A conflict of interest is one of the possible grounds that can be cited by an attorney general to remove a special counsel from office.” From the July 21 report:
Some of President Trump’s lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation, building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest and discussing the president’s authority to grant pardons, according to people familiar with the effort.
With the Russia investigation continuing to widen, Trump’s lawyers are working to corral the probe and question the propriety of the special counsel’s work. They are actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work, according to several of Trump’s legal advisers.
A conflict of interest is one of the possible grounds that can be cited by an attorney general to remove a special counsel from office under Justice Department regulations that set rules for the job. [The Washington Post, 7/21/17]
Trump’s right-wing media allies have repeatedly suggested the president remove Mueller
Former Bush presidential writer Ned Ryun: Trump “either pulls the plug” on Mueller “now, or this will be going on years from now. He has to make a decision.” Former George W. Bush presidential writer and CEO of the conservative non-profit American Majority Ned Ryun stated that Trump “has to make a decision” to “either pull the plug now” on Mueller’s ongoing investigation, “or this will be going on years from now.” From the July 21 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom:
NED RYUN: I would say, again, but if he goes down towards the legislative agenda, gets tax reform passed, considers what he’s going to do with the future of this special counsel. If they pass tax reform, though, going into 2018, I think Republicans will all be on the same boat --
JUAN WILLIAMS: You mean you think he might fire the special counsel?
RYUN: I think that he’s going to be confronted. He either pulls the plug now, or this will be going on years from now. He has to make a decision.
WILLIAMS: That’s will be big trouble. [Fox News Channel, America’s Newsroom, 7/21/17]
CNN's Jeffrey Lord: Trump would “have a huge political advantage” if he fired Russia investigator. CNN’s Jeffrey Lord argued that because “Mr. Mueller is the establishment personified,” if the president chose to remove him, Trump “would have a huge political advantage.” From the July 20 edition of CNN’s New Day:
ALISYN CAMEROTA (HOST): Are Bob Mueller and Attorney General Jeff Sessions going to survive this administration, this term?
JEFFREY LORD: I think the attorney general will. I'm not so sure about Bob Mueller.
CAMEROTA: You think that President Trump could fire him? LORD: Yeah. Yeah, I mean this is your basic anti-establishment candidate. Mr. Mueller is the establishment personified. The whole game here with the leaked Comey memo to get him appointed in the first place. Things of that nature just reek of insiderdom here, and I don't think the president has a lot of patience with it.
CAMEROTA: And what do you think the timeline on that would be?
LORD: I honestly don't know, Alisyn, I honestly don't know. But do I think it could happen? Yes, I do. Because Mr. Mueller would be turned into a symbol of not just this investigation, but of the Washington establishment and boy, once you go there, the president would have a huge political advantage. [CNN, New Day, 7/20/17]
Fox’s Lou Dobbs: “Russia Witch Hunt - [Trump] threatens to expose Mueller’s many conflicts of interest.” On Twitter, Dobbs called the investigation a witch hunt and said it's time to “get rid of” Mueller:
— Lou Dobbs (@LouDobbs) July 20, 2017
Ben Stein on Trump firing Mueller: “It has to be done.” Actor and economic commentator Ben Stein called for Mueller to be fired and argued that he “got” the special counsel “job because he wants to kill the political career and maybe take away the freedom of President Trump. He's not there for any other reason.” Stein then went on to paint Mueller as “a very accomplished witch hunter” who has “a license to hunt and kill -- not literally kill, but hunt and kill politically President Trump, and it is too broad of a mandate.” From the July 20 edition of Fox Business’ Risk and Reward with Deirdre Bolton:
LIZ MACDONALD (GUEST HOST): Ben, the president is being criticized for undercutting the Attorney General and his Justice Department during these high-level probes into Russia. Why is the president talking to the New York Times about Jeff Sessions?
BEN STEIN: I think he wants Jeff Sessions to resign. I think he wants him to be gone, and I think he then wants to then fire the special prosecutor. Look -- look, he has got a whole bunch of buzzards and other carrion animals that eat carrion looking over his shoulder.
They want to kill him. I mean, Mr. Mueller, I'm sure he's a fine human being in many ways, but he's got that job because he wants to kill the political career and maybe take away the freedom of President Trump. He's not there for any other reason. Nobody takes that job then hires 20 or 30 high-level Democrat prosecutors, unless he's out to get the president.
He's gonna have to get rid of him eventually. He's going to have to get rid of Sessions. The whole idea of having a special prosecutor this early when there's no crime -- nothing bad has happened.
MACDONALD: Are you saying -- Ben are you saying the president should get rid of Robert Mueller? That would be a bombshell.
STEIN: It would be a bombshell, but I think it has to be done.
MACDONALD: I mean, Mueller does have a broad mandate. It says investigate any links and or coordination between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. That's a pretty broad mandate.
STEIN: It's too broad a mandate. It basically gives him a license to hunt and kill -- not literally kill, but hunt and kill politically President Trump, and it is too broad of a mandate. It would be understandable if they had found some espionage, or somebody being paid off to be nice to Russia, but they have found nothing. There was no reason to have a special prosecutor in the first place.
This is the essence of a witch hunt, done by a very accomplished witch hunter, Mr. Mueller, who is getting his witch hunting friends from the Democratic Party on the job. [Fox Business Network, Risk and Reward with Deirdre Bolton, 7/20/17]
Longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone: "I'd fire Mueller and Rosenstein for wasting the taxpayers' money. … This is a witch hunt.” Longtime Trump confidante Roger Stone told CNN that he would “fire Mueller and Rosenstein for wasting the taxpayers’ money” on the investigation into possible Russian collusion. From the June 16 article:
In an interview with CNNMoney on Friday, Stone said that Trump should also fire Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general.
“I'd fire Mueller and Rosenstein for wasting the taxpayers' money,” Stone said. “This is a witch hunt.”
Stone's life in national politics dates to his days as a dirty-trickster for President Richard Nixon. More recently, he was an adviser to Trump's presidential campaign. He himself has been named in the Russia investigations, including as a possible link between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks.
On Friday, he insisted there was no evidence of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. And he said he was willing to testify “if they would let me testify in public. I would like to testify in public.” [CNNMoney.com, 6/16/17]
Ann Coulter: Sessions “should fire Mueller.” From a June 11 post on Twitter:
Now that we FINALLY got Comey to admit Trump not under investigation, Sessions should fire Mueller. Why do we need a special counsel now?
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) June 11, 2017
Other conservative media figures previewed Trump administration’s talking points on supposed conflicts of interest months ago
Fox's Steve Doocy: Mueller “wasn't hired to get” Trump's tax returns. Fox host Steve Doocy laid out the White House’s talking points on Mueller, saying that “the White house is going on the offensive.” Doocy later complained that Mueller “wasn't hired to get [Trump’s] tax returns,” and suggested that some of the attorneys on Mueller’s team “should recuse [themselves] from this particular investigation” because of past political donations. From the July 21 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): There is a big story in The New York Times about how it sounds like the White House is going on the offensive. Bob Mueller is a special counsel looking into whether or not Russia influenced our election and if the Trump team colluded with the Russians in the run-up to the election. Well, what's interesting now is, apparently, essentially what the Trump team is doing is they're putting out, look, this is a witch-hunt being led by Democrats who, for the most part, have given a lot of money to Democrats over the past. They've got clients that have included the Clinton Foundation. And then again, there's Mr. Mueller's relationship with James Comey. The former guy who got fired.
AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): Look at this. Steve's talking about -- so the attorneys that are working with Robert Mueller on this investigation to find out if there is colluding or meddling, five out of the six attorneys have given money to the Democratic Party that President Clinton or President Obama or the DNC. And you saw the list there.
CLAYTON MORRIS (CO-HOST): Well the concern is around money, right? The finances and the Trump administration --
EARHARDT: The concern for them investigating President Trump, you mean.
MORRIS: Right, so the concern among the Trump administration right now is don't look at our finances. That's what -- this is off-limits, this is not what we're talking about here. The mandate for Bob Mueller was around the Russian meddling in our election, and --
DOOCY: That's why he got hired.
MORRIS: -- hired, whether or not the colluding took place. So we haven't seen tax returns, we haven't seen -- and apparently the FBI is looking into --
DOOCY: Yeah, but he wasn't hired to get his tax returns.
MORRIS: No, but we might end up seeing it.
DOOCY: I'll tell you what, the Department of Justice has explicit rules on what is a conflict. You can't participate in personal or political relationships, however it doesn't say whether or not donations are on the list. But if somebody worked for the Clinton Foundation doesn't that sound like they have got a relationship that is political in nature?
EARHARDT: Yeah, or if they're giving thousands of dollars. That's a lot -- one of these people gave like $33,000. One of these attorneys, they're --
DOOCY: So maybe that person should recuse himself from this particular investigation.
MORRIS: And also this could extend to be like the Clinton years. Which is, it starts off as an investigation around Whitewater and it descends after seven years into this discussion about Monica Lewinsky and perjury and other things that had nothing to do -- Whitewater was totally absolved. It moves in this entirely different direction that's open-ended and that's what the White House is worried about.
EARHARDT: Well they're investigating to find out if he was, if President Trump was involved with Russia before the election, that Russians buying his apartments in Trump buildings here. If you drive up Fifth Avenue or Central Park South, that property is some of the most expensive property in the country. And I walk along Central Park and I'm like who can afford, how are all of these buildings full? And a real estate agent told me that a lot of their clients are customers are from other countries. Like princes buying these buying elaborate, huge apartments in the city. Well, he owns so many buildings here. I assume some people that are buying apartments in all of his buildings, some of them are probably from Russia. [Fox News Channel, Fox & Friends, 7/21/17]
Fox’s Newt Gingrich: “I think this whole thing is sick, and we ought to understand how sick it is, and if you look at who Mueller is hiring, it gets even sicker.” Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich argued that “Mueller, in theory, should recuse himself” from the Comey-related aspects of the investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign, adding that Mueller’s probe “is sick, and we ought to understand how sick it is, and if you look at who Mueller is hiring, it gets even sicker.” From the June 18 edition of Fox News’ Justice with Judge Jeanine:
NEWT GINGRICH: To the degree that Comey’s involved, Mueller, in theory, should recuse himself. The rules at [the Department of] Justice are very simple. You cannot be investigating somebody who you are a personal friend of, and that's why this whole thing is so absurd. Remember, by the way, Comey's past experience under Bush, when Comey appointed the godfather to his children to be a special investigator in the Valerie Plame case, knowing that there was no crime and knew who had leaked, and they let loose [Patrick] Fitzgerald for the purpose of going after Ddick Cheney. I think this whole thing is sick, and we ought to understand how sick it is, and if you look at who Mueller is hiring, it gets even sicker. [Fox News Channel, Justice with Judge Jeanine, 6/18/17]
Fox’s Gregg Jarrett: The deputy attorney general “should” remove Mueller, and “hopefully the new special counsel would be impartial, which Mueller is not.” Fox News anchor Gregg Jarrett stated that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein “should” remove Mueller, and added that “hopefully the new special counsel would be impartial, which Mueller is not.” From the June 17 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends Saturday:
GREGG JARRETT: Only Rosenstein has the power to fire Mueller, as he should. He should do that and then recuse himself at the same time.
PETE HEGSETH (CO-HOST): You say he should, but is that the right move to make the Russia thing go away? Or does it just --
JARRETT: It doesn’t end the investigation. Then there would be a new special counsel that would be appointed and the investigation moves forward. And hopefully the new special counsel would be impartial, which Mueller is not. [Fox News Channel, Fox & Friends Saturday, 6/17/17]
Fox's Sean Hannity: “There is no way that this investigation can be fair or objective. It is now impossible. … That’s why we, tonight, are calling for this special counsel to be shut down.” Fox host Sean Hannity claimed, “There is no way that this investigation can be fair or objective. It is now impossible.” Hannity highlighted that some attorney’s on Mueller’s team “have actually donated to the Democrats,” and went on to say that he is “calling for” special counsel Mueller’s investigation “to be shut down.” From the June 13 edition of Fox News’ Hannity:
SEAN HANNITY (HOST): There is no way that this investigation can be fair or objective. It is now impossible. So, who do you think Mueller is going to side with? His friend or the president? A friend, by the way, that he’s going after -- his friend is going after. This is a massive conflict of interest, it cannot be ignored.
HANNITY: But that’s not all, it gets even worse and more outrageous. Several outlets have reported that three key people on Mueller’s investigation team have actually donated to the Democrats. That’s why we, tonight, are calling for this special counsel to be shut down. [Fox News Channel, Hannity, 6/13/17]