President Trump insists he’s not going to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, but that’s not stopping Republicans and others close to the president from orchestrating a relentless stream of attacks on the credibility and integrity of Mueller and his team of Russia investigators. In the last week, Mueller’s investigators have been accused of bias against Trump and of violating criminal procedure to get documents related to his transition. The purpose of the onslaught, say people close to the White House, is to sow public doubt about Mueller and his prosecutors in advance of criminal trials and to give the president political cover if he wants to start issuing pardons to any current or former aides swept up in the Russia scandal, Politico reports.
“It is definitely a smarter strategy than outright firing of Mueller, because that is likely to create a firestorm,” said Elizabeth de la Vega, a federal prosecutor in San Francisco. “It is also entirely consistent with Trump’s modus operandi because he is surprisingly non-confrontational, preferring to be manipulative and, frankly, sneaky.” The latest complaints against Mueller are a sharp escalation from earlier this year, when Trump and his allies questioned Mueller’s hiring of prosecutors who had predominantly donated to Democratics, including President Obama and Hillary Clinton. While Trump told reporters Sunday that he wasn’t considering firing Mueller, he said about the special counsel’s methods for obtaining his transition team’s emails, “It’s not looking good. It’s quite sad to see that. My people are very upset about it. I can’t imagine there’s anything on them, frankly, because as we said, there’s no collusion.”