WASHINGTON — Still fuming over the FBI raid on the residences and office of his longtime personal attorney, President Trump is reportedly tinkering again with the prospect of firing leaders at the Justice Department until someone is willing to fire or restrain special counsel Robert Mueller — as Republican leaders on Capitol Hill warned him to not go there.
Michael Cohen made his first comments about being the target of the Monday raid, set into motion by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, off-air to CNN’s Don Lemon in a phone call today.
“I am unhappy to have my personal residence and office raided. But I will tell you that members of the FBI that conducted the search and seizure were all extremely professional, courteous and respectful. And I thanked them at the conclusion,” Cohen said.
Asked if he was worried, Cohen said, “I would be lying to you if I told that I am not. Do I need this in my life? No. Do I want to be involved in this? No.”
Trump dined at the White House this evening with professor Alan Dershowitz, who said the previous evening on Fox News that he believed more than ever that the president should not agree to an interview with Mueller in the Russia investigation.
CNN reported that Trump was particularly angry at Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Mueller probe and appointed the special counsel, and was considering whether firing Rosenstein would enable him to move someone into the role who would put more constraints on Mueller.
But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) warned against that, and against Trump’s verbal pushbacks like on Monday when the president called the raid on Cohen “an attack on our country.”
“The less the president said on this whole thing, the better off he would be, the stronger his presidency would be,” Grassley told Fox Business. “I think that maybe Mueller coming to a dead end as far as collusion of Trump with Russia in this election — and it looks like a dead end — maybe Mueller would appreciate being fired so he would have an excuse for getting out of it, and the Democrats would have a good issue in this upcoming election.”
“It would be suicide for the president to want to talk about firing Mueller,” he added.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) held fast to his past declarations that Mueller needs to be allowed to finish his investigation. “I haven’t seen a clear indication yet that we needed to pass something to keep him from being removed because I don’t think that’s going to happen, and that remains my view,” McConnell told reporters on Capitol Hill.
“It’s still my view that Mueller should be allowed to finish his job,” he added. “I think that’s the view of most people in Congress.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters that he didn’t think Rosenstein or Mueller would be fired, because “I am confident that that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency and he’s not going to do that.”
On the prospect of firing Mueller, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that Trump “certainly believes he has the power to do so.”
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said it “would be a massive mistake for the president to do anything to interfere with this investigation.”
“He knows most every Republican senator feels that way,” Corker added.
“Bottom line with the Mueller investigation, what I want to know as a senator is, what was Russia’s involvement in our election process? Was there collusion? That’s what we need to get to the bottom of. Let’s let the investigation go. Let’s see where it turns up,” Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) told CNN. “Certainly, at some point, there has to be a conclusion to this investigation and I hope at that time, the results are presented to Congress so we can understand what happened.”
On the other side of the aisle, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said Trump “certainly would have much more reason” to fire Mueller now, comparing the raid on the president’s longtime confidant to “a nuclear strike with multiple warheads.”
Blumenthal, a former state attorney general, told CNN that warrants were approved at multiple levels in the Justice Department and ultimately approved by a judge because there was likely evidence prosecutors feared Cohen would “conceal or destroy.” The latest reports about Trump wanting to fire Rosenstein, Mueller or both reflect Trump’s “internal upheaval and turmoil,” the senator said.
He predicted that firing Rosenstein would provoke much the same reaction in Republicans and Democrats in the upper chamber, and said talks behind the scenes of moving long-stalled legislation to protect the special counsel were “gaining momentum” amid a “sense of impending catastrophe” that the president may follow through “on some of the threats that he has apparently made to his own staff.”
Bluementhal declared that firings to stop the investigation would spark a “constitutional firestorm” that “will engulf this presidency and bring it down.”