As the probe into Russia’s influence in the 2016 presidential election continues, President Trump apparently isn’t “discussing” firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway said during the weekend that the Trump administration has made clear it will cooperate with Mueller’s investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.
She said Trump believes the Russia investigation is a “complete false and fabricated lie,” but said the president “has not even discussed” nor is “discussing” firing Mueller.
Mueller, 73, impaneled a grand jury last week as part of his examination. Read on for a brief rundown on his investigation so far.
The Department of Justice announced the appointment of Mueller to oversee the federal investigation into Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election on May 17.
The appointment came after a growing cry – mostly from Democrats – mounted for someone outside the Justice Department to handle the probe. Attorney Gen. Jeff Sessions had already recused himself from the investigation.
Mueller led the FBI through the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and served under presidential administrations of both parties.
He has the authority to prosecute any crimes uncovered during his investigation, and he was given wide authority to investigate whether Trump or his associates colluded with the Kremlin to win the White House.
Mueller expanded the probe to include investigating Trump for obstruction of justice because he fired FBI Director James Comey earlier in May.
Trump told Fox News the claims that he obstructed justice were “ridiculous” and said Mueller’s friendship with Comey was “very bothersome.”
Mueller’s appointment earned bipartisan support from lawmakers; then-Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said he was a “great selection” and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., said it was a “victory for all Americans.”
The Trump administration heavily criticized Mueller’s investigation last month as several of his attorneys on staff donated to Democratic campaigns, including to Trump’s 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton.
“They clearly wanted the other person to win. Now, whether that prejudices them in one way or another remains to be seen, but it is relevant information for people to have,” Conway told “Fox and Friends” in July.
Mueller kicked off August by impaneling a grand jury to investigate Russia’s influence – an indication that the probe is entering a new phase.
A grand jury gives prosecutors the ability to subpoena documents and gather on-the-record witness testimonies. Indictments can also be sought.
Grand juries are common vehicles to gather evidence, though they do not suggest any criminal charges are near or will necessarily be sought.
Trump has dismissed the allegations of collusion with Russia as a “fake story that is demeaning to all of us and most of all demeaning to our country and demeaning to our Constitution.”
“I just hope the final determination is a truly honest one, which is what the millions of people who gave us our big win in November deserve and what all Americans who want a better future want and deserve,” Trump said at a rally in West Virginia last week.
The president also warned Mueller to stay within certain boundaries as he investigates.
Trump told the New York Times last month that Mueller would “cross a red line” if he expanded the probe to include his family’s finances that aren’t in relation to Russia.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.