As pressure mounts on Donald Trump after indictments were handed down Monday in the Russia investigation run by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the White House on Monday downplayed speculation that Trump would seek to fire Mueller — as he fired FBI Director James Comey in May — as a way to cripple the Russia investigation. But importantly, Trump’s spokesperson refused to rule out the possibility that Trump would fire Mueller.
On the social media platform Twitter, hundreds of users have expressed fears that Trump’s firing of Mueller is now inevitable.
Also on Monday after the indictments of former Trump presidential campaign manager Paul Manafort and campaign adviser Rick Gates on multiple conspiracy, money laundering and other charges were announced, one of Trump’s closest allies and political advisers, Steve Bannon, reportedly phoned Trump capturing his ear with a secret plan to undercut and cripple the Mueller investigation that would not risk the likely nationwide political firestorm that may ensue if Trump were to simply fire Mueller.
In addition to the indictments of Manafort and Gates, Mueller on October 30 also announced that Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos had pled guilty on October 5 to a charge that he lied to FBI investigators, and that Papadopoulos — who repeatedy attempted to use his Russian contacts to set up meetings between Trump campaign officials and the Russian government — was now cooperating with the Mueller investigation.
Bannon took over the Trump campaign in August of 2016, after Manafort was forced to resign over his financial ties to pro-Russian political leaders in Ukraine. Bannon became Trump’s White House “chief strategist” in January, but he was forced out in August of this year.
But Bannon has stayed in close contact with Trump and has publicly led attacks on Trump’s critics. On Monday, according to reporting by the Daily Beast online magazine, Bannon phoned Trump urging him to replace his legal team, who Bannon believes has been too soft on Mueller, and take a more openly combative approach against the special counsel whose probe appears to be moving closer to the White House.
Bannon’s plan? Not to fire Mueller but to cut off funding for his Russia investigation, according to a report Monday by the Washington D.C. site Politico. Ending the Russia investigation’s funding would “defang Mueller without (Trump) formally firing him,” Politico reported.
Bannon advised Trump to “get Republicans on Capitol Hill to cut funding for the special counsel, publicly debate Bob Mueller’s mandate, slow document production, go to court and try to slow documents being requested there and go on a massive PR campaign and try to get Capitol Hill to engage,” according to CNN correspondent Dana Bash.
So far the White House appears to be, at least in public, leaning away from firing Mueller, perhaps fearing the potentially massive backlash already brewing on social media, and that could spill into the streets of American cities were Trump to move against Mueller.
Be prepared for Trump to fire Mueller. If he does, text ALERT to 668366 Visit: https://t.co/tQglzl1XG2
— Melinda Francais (@MelindaFrancais) October 31, 2017
Not the first to say this, but If Trump does fire Mueller, it will be time for massive public demonstrations. https://t.co/9jcUaJfayM
— Paul Krugman (@paulkrugman) October 31, 2017
Be prepared to shut down America, Patriots, should #Trump make grievous error to fire Mueller in a Saturday Night Massacre. No time 2B timid
— Old GOPer (@OGOPer) October 31, 2017
Politicians warn Trump not to fire Robert Mueller https://t.co/McpMzcwYW2
— Stephan Braun (@StephanBraun81) October 31, 2017
— Holly O’Reilly (@AynRandPaulRyan) October 28, 2017
On Monday, White House press spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Trump currently had “no intention” to fire Mueller, but Sanders did not rule out that Trump would change his mind at any point in the future.
[Featured Image by Win McNamee/Getty Images]