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A longtime friend of President Trump said on Monday that Mr. Trump was considering whether to fire Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating possible ties between the president's campaign and Russian officials. The startling assertion comes as some of Mr. Trump's conservative allies, who initially praised Mr. Mueller's selection as special counsel, have begun trying to attack his credibility. The friend, Christopher Ruddy, the chief executive of Newsmax Media, who was at the White House on Monday, said on PBS's “NewsHour” that Mr. Trump was “considering, perhaps, terminating the special counsel.” “I think he's weighing that option,” Mr. Ruddy said. His comments appeared to take the White House by surprise. “Mr. Ruddy never spoke to the president regarding this issue,” Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said in a statement hours later. “With respect to this subject, only the president or his attorneys are authorized to comment.” Allies of the president cast doubt on the idea that Mr. Trump would take such a drastic step, and White House officials said Mr. Ruddy had not met directly with the president while he was there. Firing Mr. Mueller would be a politically explosive move that would raise new questions about Mr. Trump, whose abrupt dismissal of James B. Comey as F.B.I. director generated accusations of obstruction of justice and led to Mr. Mueller's appointment. Mr. Trump has been known, in moments of frustration and stress, to vent threats of action to members of his inner circle. In the past, some of those private expressions of anger have been made public by friends and associates, only to generate speculation about moves that never take place — including a senior staff shake-up that has yet to happen. Such moments sometimes reflect the deep division among Mr. Trump's White House advisers about the best course for the president to take in the face of political or legal adversity. Under Justice Department rules, Mr. Trump would seemingly have to order Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein to rescind department regulations protecting a special counsel from being fired for no good reason, and then to fire Mr. Mueller. If Mr. Rosenstein refused, Mr. Trump could fire him, too — a series of events that would recall the “Saturday Night Massacre” during Watergate, when President Richard M. Nixon sought to dismiss a special prosecutor, Archibald Cox. White House officials referred questions to Mr. Trump's personal lawyer, Marc E. Kasowitz, as they have recently on all matters relating to the Russia investigation. A spokesman for Mr. Kasowitz declined to comment.
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