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Trump aides insist no plan to fire Robert Mueller as Republican attacks increase

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12/17/2017 05:19 PM
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Trump aides insist no plan to fire Robert Mueller as Republican attacks increase
Senior Trump administration officials insisted on Sunday the president was not preparing to fire Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating alleged collusion between Trump aides and Russia during the 2016 election.

“There’s no conversation about that whatsoever in the White House,” said director of legislative affairs Marc Short.

Steven Mnuchin, the treasury secretary, said: “I was at dinner last night with the president and the vice-president, I haven’t heard anything about any firing.”

Both men were, however, critical of the investigation, which Mnuchin said had become “a giant distraction”. The treasury secretary also said that though he did not “have any reason to think that the president” would fire Mueller, “that’s obviously up to him”.

Short and Mnuchin spoke, to NBC and CNN respectively, after the website Axios reported on Saturday that Mueller has gained access to thousands of emails sent and received by 13 senior Trump aides before and during the presidential transition.

Citing “people familiar with the transition organisation”, the Associated Press said the emails were transferred to Mueller’s team in September, a move of which the Trump team was not aware.

On Saturday, an attorney for Trump’s transition team sent a letter to two Republican committee chairmen in Congress, claiming the emails were provided to Mueller improperly.

Mueller was prompted to release a rare statement to the press, in which spokesman Peter Carr said: “When we have obtained emails in the course of our ongoing criminal investigation, we have secured either the account owner’s consent or appropriate criminal process.”

Analysts said the Trump lawyer’s letter was a political move rather than a sound legal gambit. A spokesman for the government agency which provided the emails to Mueller told BuzzFeed “no expectation of privacy” could be assumed by the Trump transition team.

In a statement released on Sunday, Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the House oversight committee, said the Presidential Transition Act “simply does not support withholding transition team emails from criminal investigators”.

He added: “The president’s lawyers have said they want to fully comply with [Mueller] so it is odd that they now suggest they would have withheld key documents from federal investigators.”

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