Steven Mnuchin says he doesn't have reason to think Trump will fire Mueller
White House special counsel Ty Cobb says his team isn't considering firing Mueller
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says he doesn’t have any reason to believe President Donald Trump will fire special counsel Robert Mueller.
“I was at dinner last night with the President and Vice President. I haven’t heard anything about this, any firing,” Mnuchin told CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday morning.
“I don’t have any reason to believe the President is going to do that,” Mnuchin later said, adding, “but that’s obviously up to him.”
The comments come after lawyers for Trump’s transition accused the special counsel of “unlawfully” obtaining tens of thousands of emails from the transition. They also follow Mueller’s removal of one of his investigators after learning he had exchanged text messages with an FBI attorney that showed bias against then-candidate Trump.
Mnuchin added that Washington has to “get past this investigation.”
“It’s a giant distraction,” he said of Mueller’s probe into Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election. “Nobody has said that in any way this impacted the election. … I think it should be over quickly, because I think there’s nothing there.”
The US intelligence community has concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin directed efforts to influence the presidential election campaign in ways that would help Trump and hurt his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
Mnuchin’s comments come a day after White House special counsel Ty Cobb told CNN in a statement that there are no plans to fire Mueller.
“As the White House has consistently said for months, there is no consideration of firing the special counsel,” Cobb said.
White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short echoed Cobb on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“There is no conversation about that whatsoever in the White House,” Short said.
“You guys keep bringing that up,” he added when pressed on the issue. “We have continued to cooperate in every way possible with that investigation.”
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, of Texas, said Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week” on the prospect of firing Mueller: “I think that would be a mistake myself.”
Earlier this month, reports surfaced that Mueller had removed Peter Strzok, one of the FBI’s top Russian counterintelligence experts, from his team after an internal investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general found that Strzok had exchanged politically tinged messages with FBI lawyer Lisa Page.
Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday that the indications of political bias are “very serious,” but a distinction should be made about whether Strzok was “directing the investigation one way or another.”
“Obviously I don’t think it taints the entire process, but it certainly taints that season of it,” Lankford said.
California Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier and other Democratic lawmakers have expressed concerns in recent days that Trump would fire Mueller, prompting some of the discussion Sunday.
“I believe that the President wants all of this shut down,” Speier speculated during an appearance Friday on KQED in California. “He wants to shut down these investigations and he wants to fire special counsel Mueller.”
Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, tweeted his own concerns on Friday, saying, “I’m increasingly worried Republicans will shut down the House Intelligence Committee investigation at the end of the month.”
Senator-elect Doug Jones, D-Alabama, told “State of the Union” that he believes the investigation will roll on, but added that “anybody would need to be concerned if Bob Mueller was fired.”
“I think this is just going to run its course,” the former federal prosecutor said. “I don’t think he’s going to rush it. But at the same time, I think he’s moving fairly expeditiously because he understands the importance of trying to get this over and out in the open as soon as possible.”
Trump has been critical of the FBI in recent weeks following reports that top FBI employees were exchanging messages last year referring to him in derogatory terms during the campaign.
On Friday, the President was asked by a reporter if he thought Mueller’s team was biased.
“Well, it’s a shame what’s happened with the FBI,” Trump said. “But we’re going to rebuild the FBI. It’ll be bigger and better than ever, but it is very sad when you look at those documents, and how they’ve done that is very, very disgraceful, and you have a lot of angry people that are seeing it. It’s a very sad thing to watch, I will tell you that.”
Trump added a moment later, “And I’m going today on behalf of the FBI, their new building, and you know, but everybody – not me – but everybody, the level of anger at what they’ve been witnessing with respect to the FBI is certainly very sad.”
CNN’s Laura Jarrett contributed to this report