Trump may want the Russia investigation to end. But Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the only person with power to fire the special counsel, is satisfied with how it is progressing.
With the Russia investigation now having produced several indictments and two guilty pleas, and veering into Donald Trump’s personal finances, some are speculating that Trump will try to fire special counsel Robert Mueller.
Unfortunately for him, firing Mueller is not so simple.
Since Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself, the only person who has authority to dismiss the special counsel is Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Despite Trump and his allies insisting the Russia scandal is a "hoax" and the investigation is a "witch hunt," Rosenstein said in an interview with an NBC affiliate in Maryland that he is satisfied with how the Russia probe is going.
Rosenstein, a former U.S. attorney from Maryland, said that he was not at liberty to go into further detail because “when we conduct criminal investigations ... we don’t talk about the investigation while it’s ongoing.” But, he said, Mueller’s team “is part of the Department of Justice. And we’re accountable for it.”
Although Rosenstein has made a few questionable decisions since being appointed to his current office by Trump, particularly relating to the Comey firing, he is a career prosecutor who understands enough to respect the investigation process and maintain his department’s independence.
With Rosenstein supportive of Mueller, Trump will not be able to fire the special counsel without firing Rosenstein himself — the path Richard Nixon tried to take in the “Saturday Night Massacre.”
Despite this, there is not a guarantee Trump will make the rational choice and avoid interference with the special counsel. For that reason, it is critically important that Republicans pass one of the multiple bills currently in Congress that would protect Mueller’s position.
But ultimately, Rosenstein’s signal of support for Mueller is a welcome and hopeful sign that perhaps, at the end of the day, the rule of law will prevail.