Mueller investigation may get more protection after Democrats take the House
UPDATE: Jeff Session is out as Donald Trump’s attorney general. Matthew G. Whitaker will serve as acting AG and will now oversee Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
The Democrats have taken a hold of the House of Resprenstatives, meaning Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation (which went quiet in the final weeks before the 2018 midterm elections) may gain some protection.
U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized Mueller and his probe, calling it a politically motivated witch hunt and bad for the country. The investigation looks into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin.
On Wednesday, Trump was asked whether he would remove Mueller from his position now that the midterms are done.
“I could fire everybody right now. But politically I don’t want to stop it [the investigation],” Trump said. He reiterated that there is no collusion.
In August, Trump called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to halt the investigation, which Democratic lawmakers said was a blatant attempt to obstruct justice.
WATCH: Trump is worried a sit-down interview with Mueller could be a ‘perjury trap’
Mueller’s investigation has so far led to criminal cases against Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, personal attorney Michael Cohen, and other advisers, including Rick Gates and George Papadopolous.
If Trump continues to try to quash the probe, a Democratic House would probably try to move legislation to protect Mueller.
In April, the Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation that would protect Mueller’s job, by giving any special counsel a 10-day window to seek expedited judicial review of a firing.
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to take up the bill in the Senate.
Now that the Dems have the House, it’s expected that they pass their own special counsel protection bill.
What if Trump fires Rosenstein?
Mueller reports to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who will receive the special counsel’s report and can decide to make it public, share it with Congress, or both.
Rosenstein, who is the number two official in the justice department, is supervising the Mueller probe because Sessions recused himself from matters related to the Russia investigation.
In September, The New York Times reported that Rosenstein suggested secretly recordnig Trump in the White House to expose the administration’s chaos, and that he discussed recruiting cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office for being unfit.
The Times cited several anonymous sources, but Rosenstein has since denied both allegations.
After this news, there was speculation that Rosenstein would be fired or would resign. However, Trump declared his job safe, saying he was “not making any changes.”
WATCH: U.S. conservative lawmakers calling for impeachment of Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein
After the election results on Wednesday, Trump was asked whether Sessions and Rosenstein were keeping their jobs.
Trump replied: “I would rather answer that at a different time,” adding that he is looking at shaking up some positions in the White House, which is common after the midterms.
If Rosenstein were out as deputy attorney general, then the Mueller probe would lose someone who has approved important moves in the investigation.
But the Democratic-controlled House now has subpoena power. Democratic leaders now can subpoena the release of secret documents related to the investigation or force witnesses to testify in front of them.
Will the House reopen Russia investigation?
Aside from Mueller’s independent investigation into Russia meddling, the House could also re-open the probe.
The Republican-led Intelligence Committee was the only House panel to investigate Russian meddling, and its investigation is now closed. Republicans say they found no evidence of collusion between Russia and President Trump’s campaign.
Democrats said Republicans ignored key facts and important witnesses and have said they would want to restart parts of the investigation if they won the House. But some Democrats also worry that there could be a political cost if they overreach.
After the midterm election results, Trump took to Twitter on Wednesday and warned Democrats about their threats to investigate him and the administration.
“If the Democrats think they are going to waste Taxpayer Money investigating us at the House level, then we will likewise be forced to consider investigating them for all of the leaks of Classified Information, and much else, at the Senate level. Two can play that game!” Trump said.
California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence panel, has previously said his party would have to “ruthlessly prioritize the most important matters first.”
Schiff and other lawmakers say they are closely watching special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and the Senate’s Russia probe to look for gaps that they could fill. And if Mueller issues any findings, their investigative plans could change.
WATCH: Democrats regain control of house while Republicans hold senate
— With files from the Associated Press
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