Rumors that Donald Trump is thinking about firing Special Counsel for the Russia investigation Robert Mueller have been circulating for some time. Now, officials have revealed to the Washington Post that Trump is dealing with his discontent with Mueller’s investigation in a slightly different way than just considering firing him outright.
Trump, according to these officials, is looking into his powers to pardon people in connection to the Russia scandal. This could be connected to guilt on the president and his team’s part, but then again, it might just be connected to paranoia. The president has long taken the Russia investigation very personally to the point of digging himself further into a hole on obstruction of justice allegations in his floundering.
There is not yet any indication that Mueller plans to file charges against the president or any members of his team in the course of his investigation. However, the option for such to take place remains, and Trump is obviously thinking of this possibility.
Although, as mentioned, the idea of the president taking it upon himself to pardon people — including himself — is explosive, anonymous officials close to the president said “this is not in the context of, ‘I can’t wait to pardon myself.'” One added that “the president has simply expressed a curiosity in understanding the reach of his pardoning authority, as well as the limits of Mueller’s investigation.”
The president’s legal team — which has thinned this week — declined to issue an official comment on the new WaPo report.
The president’s legal team is compiling a list of Mueller’s possible conflicts of interest in another bit of shoring up against his investigation reaching a point that the president does not like. “Conflicts of interest” are a reason that Special Counsels can be fired under Justice Department regulations, and pro-Trump interests have already expressed doubt over Mueller’s investigation because of his team’s ties to Democratic interests. They’ve also argued that Mueller is too close to former FBI Director James Comey, who is at the center of obstruction of justice charges against the president that the Special Counsel’s office is looking into.
The president’s pop culture icon turned legal representative Jay Sekulow recently acted as though he is in a position, beyond all these other considerations, to simply decide when the Special Counsel’s investigation has gone too far and when it hasn’t.
‘The fact is that the president is concerned about conflicts that exist within the special counsel’s office and any changes in the scope of the investigation. The scope is going to have to stay within his mandate. If there’s drifting, we’re going to object. They’re talking about real estate transactions in Palm Beach several years ago. In our view, this is far outside the scope of a legitimate investigation.’
Sekulow’s view doesn’t really matter. Mueller’s office is looking into possible financial crimes on the part of Trump and his associates that may have held together collusion between the Trump team and Russia, and that has led him to look at these real estate transactions. The Russians could have used financial ties as puppet strings to control the Trump team.
Making this whole matter even more complicated is something touched on by Brian C. Kalt, a constitutional law expert at Michigan State University, who said that the very question of if the president can pardon himself in these kinds of circumstances remains unanswered.
Featured Image via Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images