Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Thursday said President Donald Trump does not plan to fire Robert Mueller, the special counsel overseeing the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, despite the President’s warning that Mueller should not exceed the parameters of the probe.
“The point he’s trying to make is that the clear purpose of the Russia investigation is to review Russia’s meddling in the election, and that that should be the focus of the investigation. Nothing beyond that,” Sanders said during an off-camera, audio-only White House briefing, according to an official transcript.
Trump on Wednesday said it would be “a violation” if Mueller looked into his personal finances.
“Look, this is about Russia. So I think if he wants to go, my finances are extremely good, my company is an unbelievably successful company,” Trump said in an interview with the New York Times.
Trump on Wednesday would not say whether he would fire Mueller if the special counsel went outside the parameters of the Russia investigation: “I can’t answer that question because I don’t think it’s going to happen,” he said.
Asked whether his remarks were a threat or warning to Mueller, Sanders said Trump was “making it clear that the special counsel should not move outside the scope of the investigation.”
“Does that mean that firing the special counsel is something that’s on the table for this President?” a reporter asked.
“Although the President has the authority to do so, he doesn’t intend to do so,” Sanders said, an echo of a statement she made in June on the same subject.
“When asked about Mueller today a couple of times you’ve used conditional language,” another reporter asked. “How can his independence be guaranteed if you’re saying in conditional tense that he’s not going to try to have him removed?”
“Look, I can’t predict everything that could possibly take place in the future and what Mueller could potentially do that might create an outrageous reason not to take action,” Sanders said. “I’m not going to talk about hypotheticals. I can talk about where we are today.”