White House torn over Mueller's role as pressure grows

Of course, Rosenstein's answer does not confirm that Mueller is definitely exploring the issue. The Justice Department later acknowledged Sessions's contacts with Kislyak but said they were part of Sessions's job at the time as a senator. He is the Acting Attorney General in this case.

Now, Trump could order Rosenstein to fire Mueller.

Rosenstein was testifying in place of Sessions, who over the weekend canceled his own appearance before the committee and instead agreed to testify in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Gingrich and others are arguing Mueller can not be fair, because he is friends with former FBI Director James Comey, whom Trump fired last month. Rosenstein would be the one to fire Comey, which he repeatedly assured senators Tuesday he would not consider without "good cause".

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was asked about news reports suggesting Trump was mulling letting Mueller go, but said he has not seen evidence he has cause to fire Mueller.

"I am not at liberty to talk about that now, and the reason for that is that if it is within the scope of Director Mueller's investigation. we don't want people talking publicly about open investigations", he said.

Conservative media, led by Newsmax CEO and Trump friend Chris Ruddy, have suggested that the interview shows Mueller has a conflict in his special counsel investigation. If Mr. Rosenstein refused, Mr. Trump could fire him, too - a series of events that would recall the "Saturday Night Massacre" during Watergate, when President Richard M. Nixon sought to dismiss a special prosecutor, Archibald Cox.

"If any brief interaction occurred in passing with the Russian ambassador during that reception, I do not remember it", Sessions said.

"I don't think Trump should do anything but the congressional Republicans ought to look into it", Gingrich said.

Also on Tuesday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said he's seen no basis for firing Robert Mueller, the former FBI director he appointed as special counsel to oversee an investigation into potential coordination between the Trump presidential campaign and Russian Federation.

McConnell told reporters Tuesday that "I have a lot of confidence in Bob Mueller".

It wasn't clear whether Ruddy, who speaks with the president often, was basing his remarks on a specific conversation with the president or entirely on Sekulow's comments.

Mueller, who directed the Federal Bureau of Investigation under former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, was named to the post last month by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

I was reminded of that when Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the deputy press secretary, was asked about Comey's testimony that Trump had lied several times.

Rosenstein is charged with Mueller's fate because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from all matters having to do with the Trump-Russia investigation.

Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade noted former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich recommended Mueller's firing.

The public testimony Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence committee should yield Sessions' most extensive comments to date on questions that have dogged his tenure as attorney general and that led him three months ago to recuse himself from the Russian Federation probe.

The White House immediately distanced itself from what Ruddy said. She said such a move would "destroy any shred of trust in the president's judgment that remains over here".

"As long as I'm in this position, he's not going to be fired without cause", he added.

  • Leroy Wright