Newly anointed acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker has said there is “certainly” a legal way for president Trump to fire special counsel Robert Mueller—and that it wouldn’t constitute obstruction of justice.
In June 2017, a CNN panel was discussing Trump’s refusal to say whether he intended to fire Mueller, who is investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. Asked his view of the speculation, Whitaker had the following exchange with anchor Don Lemon:
Whitaker: Well, what I see is a President that is starting to figure out his influence that he can have on this investigation. And someone that is trying to send a message to the special prosecutor, Bob Mueller, that listen, you have a lot of power and you are now the keeper of the cloud that hangs over this administration, unfortunately, but I can still affect you. I can reach out and if I want to, I can terminate you. I think that is very dangerous politically, but legally there is certainly a way for that to happen.
Lemon: You don’t think that’s dangerous legally, it’s not obstruction? He is saying basically unless it goes my way, I’m going to fire you.
Whitaker: No, I don’t think that’s obstruction, because—we keep using that term. And I know we have discussed it before, Don. But I just – I don’t think that under these facts and circumstances that an obstruction of justice charge, either in the context that we have originally talked about with his discussions with Jim Comey or in this new context of talking about the possibility of Bob Mueller losing his job as special counsel, I think neither one of those would raise to the level of obstruction.
Whitaker has a long history of criticizing Mueller’s probe, despite his personal admiration for Mueller. Read all those criticisms here.