President Donald Trump is still under a microscope as Special Counsel Robert Mueller continues his investigation, and Constitutional Expect Robert McWhirter discusses the legality of he president firing Mueller.
“A special prosecutor like Robert Mueller can essentially only be fired for a cause – violation of policy, conflicts of interest, all kinds of things,” McWhirter says. “None of that can really be shown in this situation.”
This isn’t the first time we see a president come close to firing a special counsel who is heading an investigation that involves the president himself. Forty five years ago, on October 20, 1973, President Richard Nixon tried firing Special Counsel Archibald Cox. Nixon went to the attorney general and deputy attorney general for help, both declined and resigned. The president eventually got to Solicitor General Robert Bork who agreed to fire Cox in return for a Supreme Court nomination. However, it was determined later that Nixon didn’t have the power to do that legally.
Can Trump fire Rob Rosenstein who does have the power to fire Mueller? McWhirter says yes. Is that a likely scenario? It’s hard to say, but it is a possibility.
“I’m sure Trump would like to do it, but there’s something really interesting that occurred here which is different than in 1973 with Archibald Cox,” McWhirter says. “Right after Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio, Robert Mueller did something really interesting. He made it a joint investigation with the attorney general of New York which means that even if Donald Trump fires Robert Mueller, this investigation goes forward.”
A federal prosecutor is bound by ethical constraints. Anything he presents to a grand jury is held in secret. However, if the attorney general of New York has the same information, there’s nothing that can be done by the president. If Mueller is out, New York is still in and the investigation can continue.