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White House denies Trump wants Mueller out, but heat's on

U.S. President Donald Trump has "no intention" of firing special counsel Robert Mueller, the White House has said of the former FBI director who was hired by the Department of Justice last month to lead an independent investigation into Russia's efforts to influence the 2016 election.

Allies of the President cast doubt on the idea that Mr Trump would take such a drastic step, and officials said Mr Ruddy had not met Mr Trump directly while visiting the White House on Monday.

Questions about Mueller's job security swirled through Washington on Monday evening after Chris Ruddy, the CEO of NewsMax and a longtime Trump confidant, told PBS that the president was mulling the possibility of firing the special counsel. During the House hearing, New York Representative Nita Lowey asked Rosenstein if he had discussed former FBI Director James Comey's termination with the White House, and if anyone directed him to write his recommendation of Comey's dismissal.

On Mr. Rosenstein's first standard - legality - there is an argument that Mr. Trump would have the authority to dismiss Mr. Mueller, though doing so would not be simple.

"I think that he should be more cognizant of making sure that the people who come to work with him are non-partisan, for his own credibility", Bennett said of Mueller. Gen. Jeff Sessions rightly recused himself from any investigation connected with the election.

He emphasized that he thinks removing Mueller would be a mistake, but he described the special counsel's power and his appointment to the role as "illegitimate".

Under current Justice Department regulations, firing Mueller would have to be done by deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, not the president— though those regulations could theoretically be set aside.

In the interview, Mr Ruddy said Mr Trump had considered replacing Mr Comey with Mr Mueller, who served as Federal Bureau of Investigation director during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations.

The discussion on Mueller's investigation came after some of Trump's closest allies - including one of his sons - began questioning whether the wide-ranging probe is becoming too political. Press secretary said Ruddy has never spoken with Trump about Mueller and is not authorized to speak on the matter, which falls far short of a ringing endorsement for Mueller.

Trump refused to respond to a reporter asking four times Tuesday whether he will fire Mueller, potentially trying to create some suspense. He said he will fire Mueller only if there was a "good cause" for it, "it wouldn't matter to me what anybody said".

When Ruddy declined, Spicer issued his own statement. He said there is no cause to consider removal, and that that the Attorney General's office alone would make that decision with the special counsel.

When asked what he would do if the president ordered him to fire Mueller, Rosenstein replied, "I'm not going to follow any orders unless I believe those are lawful and appropriate orders".

(That ignores the fact that other Trump campaign figures might be under investigation.) There also have been complaints that Mueller is a friend of Comey's.

Mueller's hiring was meant to ensure the probe would be conducted without interference.