President Trump on Wednesday sought to calm fears he is preparing to fire special counsel Robert Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to stymie the Russia probe, but did not rule out the possibility.
“They’ve been saying I’m going to get rid of them for the last three months, four months, five months, and they’re still here,” Trump said during a joint press conference with the prime minister of Japan.
The president also expressed a desire to end the Russia investigation, which he called a “very bad thing for our country.”
“So we want to get the investigation over with, done with, put it behind us,” he said.
Trump repeated his assertion that his campaign did not collude with Moscow’s effort to interfere in the 2016, the central question of the Mueller probe.
“They won’t find any collusion, it doesn’t exist,” the president said.
Trump’s comments come at a time when legal problems are mounting for his inner circle.
Last week, the FBI raided the offices, residence, hotel room and safety deposit box of Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen, in part because of a tip provided by Mueller’s team.
Cohen is a key figure in the Russia probe and played a central role in negotiating payouts to a porn star and a Playboy playmate who claim they had affairs with Trump, allegations which his representatives have denied.
Trump allies are extremely worried about the raid, believing it could put the president in serious jeopardy. Cohen has been at Trump’s side for a decade and is said to have recordings of sensitive conversations about his dealings in Trump’s orbit.
The raid also renewed speculation that the president could fire Mueller or Rosenstein — the Justice Department official responsible for overseeing the probe — in an attempt to end his legal woes.
Trump has stepped up his public criticism of Mueller and Rosenstein, a Republican he appointed to the Justice Department, accusing them of having conflicts of interest that make it impossible for them to lead the probe. But thus far, he has not moved to dismiss them.
Some outside allies and Republican lawmakers have urged Trump not to fire either official, warning that it could trigger a constitutional crisis that could effectively end his presidency.