White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday night said that President Donald Trump has “no intention” of firing Robert Mueller, the special counsel in charge of the Russia probe.
“While the president has the right to, he has no intention to do so,” Sanders told reporters aboard Air Force One when asked if Trump was considering firing Mueller.
Sanders’ comment follows several days of speculation as to whether Trump was thinking about firing Mueller. Several conservative allies of Trump have criticized Mueller in recent days, and a friend of Trump, Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy, said on Monday evening that Trump was thinking about firing Mueller. The White House on Monday night said that Ruddy did not speak for Trump but did not deny that Trump was weighing whether to let Mueller go.
Ruddy also said Monday evening that Trump interviewed Mueller for the FBI director position the day before he was named as special counsel. Sanders confirmed to reporters Tuesday night that Trump did interview Mueller.
The New York Times reported late Tuesday that Trump did consider firing Mueller, but that his staff talked him out of it, citing people with knowledge of Trump’s interactions with staff. Trump discussed the implications of firing Mueller and told those around him that Mueller was part of a “witch hunt,” according to the New York Times.
Trump was also happy about speculation that he might fire Mueller, per the New York Times:
The president was pleased by the ambiguity of his position on Mr. Mueller, and thinks the possibility of being fired will focus the veteran prosecutor on delivering what the president desires most: a blanket public exoneration.