The White House may be looking at ways to undermine the special counsel investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged ties with the White House, Reuters reported Friday.
According to anonymous sources close to the White House, the administration has begun reviewing an obscure ethics rule in the Code of Federal Regulations, which could prevent Robert Mueller, the newly appointed special counsel, from investigating anyone who was a client of his law firm — which includes President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and former campaign manager Paul Manafort.
The rule restricts newly appointed government officials from investigating clients of prior employers. Mueller's former law firm, WilmerHale, represents Kushner — who has been in the spotlight over the president’s decision to fire James Comey from the FBI and for meeting with Russian officials — and Manafort, who is currently under federal investigation.
If the White House couldn’t get Mueller removed, they’d use the rule to cast doubt on his impartiality, according to Reuters: “Under this strategy, the sources said the administration would raise the issue in press conferences and public statements,” Julia Edwards Ainsley reported. “Moreover, the White House has not ruled out the possibility of using the rule to challenge Mueller’s findings in court, should the investigation lead to prosecution.”
While not confirmed by the White House, this plan of action would be a major attempt to weaken the investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible ties with foreign actors.
We know Trump is not happy with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s decision to appoint a special counsel. This week, Trump called the investigations a “witch hunt,” in addition to releasing an official statement saying he looks forward to the “matter concluding quickly.”
The White House has been mired in Russia-related scandals for the past two weeks, starting from Trump’s decision to abruptly fire Comey. Since then, news broke that Trump may have revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister, and allegations that he tried to persuade the FBI to drop investigations into Michael Flynn, the White House’s resigned national security adviser, according to memos written by Comey himself.
In other words, even if Trump thinks this is a “witch hunt,” he and his administrations have not done a good job of making the past two weeks look like anything other than a cover-up. If the White House is truly looking to undermine Mueller’s power in this investigation further, it would only add fuel to the fire.