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Trump can fire Russia prosecutor Mueller, says White House

AFP  |  Washington 

The has insisted that has the power to fire Robert Mueller, stoking fears that the may try to kill an investigation inching ever-closer to the Oval Office.

After months of denying Mueller's removal is under consideration, the change in tone came as Trump reacted furiously to an FBI raid of his private lawyer's offices on Monday.

Mueller was appointed in May to investigate Russian efforts to tip the 2016 in Trump's favour.

Over the last year, he has increasingly dug into evidence of alleged money laundering, fraud and obstruction of justice inside Trump's inner circle.

Four Trump aides -- including his 2016 and former national security -- have already been indicted or pleaded guilty.

Now, Trump's longtime -- who holds secrets about many of the president's personal and financial dealings -- is in the crosshairs.

"We have been advised that the certainly has the power to make that decision," said of the possibility to remove Mueller.

"I think that the has been clear that he thinks that this has gone too far." Trump hunkered down at the White House, canceling a first trip to Latin that was due to start Friday and stewing on a move that could throw into a constitutional crisis.

At the same time, Trump faced a momentous decision about whether to carry out military strikes in

Trump has pledged to decide by the end of Tuesday how to respond to a in the rebel-held suburbs of Damascus, blamed on the Syrian regime and its allies.

But while much of his national security team debated whether strikes would be effective in deterring future chemical attacks, and how to limit the risk of escalation, Trump met his lawyers and to discuss the Cohen raid.

His anger showed no signs of abating.

"A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!!!" the president blasted on amid that FBI agents had seized documents pertaining to his dealings with Cohen.

"Attorney-client privilege is dead!" In a phone call with CNN, Cohen admitted the raid was "upsetting to say the least." Asked if he was worried, Cohen said: "I would be lying to you if I told that I am not. Do I need this in my life? No. Do I want to be involved in this? No." On Capitol Hill, Republican and Democratic lawmakers urged Trump to allow Mueller to do his work.

Democrats wanted to go one step further and pass legislation protecting the Republican former FBI

"If the president is thinking of using this raid to fire Mueller or otherwise interfere with the chain of command in the probe, we Democrats have one simple message for him: don't," top Senate Democrat said.

"The investigation is critical to the health of our democracy, and must be allowed to continue." Trump's fellow Republicans said that would not be necessary, with Senate stating it would be "suicide" for the president to fire Mueller.

The raid on Cohen's offices came amid allegations he paid porn star $130,000 shortly before the election to keep a tryst with Trump quiet. After months of silence, Trump last week offered a flat "no" when asked if he knew about the payment.

Another option that would allow Trump to contain Mueller would be dismissing Rod Rosenstein, a move he is also considering, reported, citing multiple sources close to discussions.

The firing would be premised on Rosenstein having overreached his remit. Some of Trump's legal advisers believe him conflicted, since he is both a potential witness in the investigation and wrote the memo that justified firing former FBI James Comey, said.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, April 11 2018. 09:55 IST