Something is missing in the White House′s response to Newsmax chief Christopher Ruddy, who claimed in a Monday-night interview on PBS that President Trump is “considering perhaps terminating” Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel appointed to oversee an investigation of Russian meddling in the U.S. election.
Here is the brief statement issued by White House press secretary Sean Spicer:
Mr. Ruddy never spoke to the president regarding this issue. With respect to this subject, only the president or his attorneys are authorized to comment.
Where is the denial? The White House did not say that Ruddy's claim is untrue — a fact Ruddy pointed out to Politico in his response to the response:
Spicer issued a bizarre late-night press release that a) doesn’t deny my claim the president is considering firing Mueller and b) says I didn’t speak to the president about the matter — when I never claimed to have done so. Memo to Sean: focus your efforts on exposing the flimflam Russian allegations against POTUS and highlighting his remarkable achievements! Don’t waste time trying to undermine one of your few allies.
Ruddy is a longtime friend of Trump who reportedly met with senior White House aides earlier on Monday but did not speak to the president. He did tell PBS that he talked to Trump last week, following the congressional testimony of former FBI director James B. Comey. And he does appear to be someone whose opinion Trump values.
When Ruddy suggested in February interviews with CNN and The Washington Post that Trump ought to replace Reince Priebus, his chief of staff, Priebus reacted by briefing Ruddy on White House plans and dining with him in Palm Beach. The implication was that Ruddy would be a bad enemy to make, if you want to remain in good standing with the president.
Keep that in mind as you read Ruddy's “memo to Sean.”
As The Fix's Aaron Blake has explained, firing Mueller would be a very bad look for Trump. Whether his campaign colluded with Russia or not, removing another person heading the federal law enforcement probe would surely intensify suspicions.
Despite the obviously terrible optics, we now have a couple data points indicating Trump actually might do it. The first was Ruddy treating the prospect seriously enough to try to dissuade the president in a TV interview. “I think firing Mueller could trigger an impeachment process,” he warned. “It could be very dangerous. I don’t think it’d be very smart at all.”
The second was the White House's failure to say that Trump won't pull the trigger.