During Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein‘s appearance before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, a number of Senators addressed rumors that President Donald Trump was considering firing Robert Mueller, the special counsel in charge of the investigation of Russian ties to the Trump campaign. Rosenstein assured the Committee that only he had the power to fire the special counsel, and that it could only be done for “good cause.” A President’s order, he pointed out, did not count as good cause.
But then things got interesting. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) asked what would happen if Trump found someone other than Rosenstein who would fire Mueller (implying that under such circumstances, Trump fired Rosenstein and replaced him). If Mueller was fired, and he believed that it was not for good cause, Van Hollen asked, could Mueller go to the courts for recourse?
Rosenstein likened the situation to the type of intricate fact pattern found on law school exams. “I just don’t know the answer to that, Senator,” Rosenstein said. “I hope we don’t reach that point.” He declared that as long as he was in charge, this would not happen.
Of course, this conversation was based on the current DOJ rules. In theory, President Trump could instruct the Justice Department to change the rules that would allow either the President to fire a special counsel or at least allow the AG (or acting AG) to fire him without needing good cause.
[Image via screengrab]