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Schumer says firing Mueller would trigger ‘a cataclysm’

Charles Schumer, Democratic leader in the Senate, said President Trump could lose Republican support if he fires Robert Mueller as special counsel. J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press/File 2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Sunday that President Trump would trigger ‘‘a cataclysm’’ if he fires Special Counsel Robert Mueller or pardons himself, but one of the president’s lawyers said pardons aren’t being discussed.

Schumer, Democrat of New York, said he can’t imagine his Republican colleagues — including Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and House speaker Paul Ryan — ‘‘just standing by’’ if Trump moves to dismiss Mueller or pardons himself or someone close to him who’s under investigation.

“It would be one of the greatest, greatest breaking of rule of law, of traditional democratic norms of what our democracy is about,’’ Schumer said on ABC’s ‘‘This Week.’’ ‘‘It would cause a cataclysm in Washington.’’


Jay Sekulow, one of Trump’s personal attorneys, said on ABC that while the president has the constitutional power to grant pardons — though the US Supreme Court probably would have to decide whether he could pardon himself — his legal team isn’t having conversations with him about it.

“We’re not researching the issue because the issue of pardons is not on the table,’’ Sekulow said. ‘‘There’s nothing to pardon from.’’

The president and members of his inner circle are facing congressional and FBI investigations of possible collusion with Russia in its interference with the 2016 presidential election. Mueller is also examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, a person familiar with the inquiry said.

Trump suggested in an interview with The New York Times on July 19 that Mueller would cross ‘‘a red line’’ if he looked into those issues, and the president mentioned pardons as part of a series of early-morning Twitter posts Saturday.

‘‘While all agree the US president has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is leaks against us,’’ Trump told his 34.3 million followers on Twitter.


Anthony Scaramucci, whom Trump named his new communications director on Friday, called the focus on Russia ‘‘overblown.’’ He said on ‘‘Fox News Sunday’’ that the president brought up the issue of pardons in the Oval Office last week and said that he doesn’t need to use it.

“There’s nobody around him that has to be pardoned,’’ Scaramucci said. ‘‘He was just making the statement about the power of pardons.’’

Trump ‘‘in all likelihood’’ has the power to pardon himself, but it’s not a good idea, Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky said on CNN’s ‘‘State of the Union.’’ ‘‘In a political sphere, I would caution someone to think about pardoning themselves or family members,’’ Paul said.

Trump also has suggested on Twitter that Mueller and members of his legal team have conflicts of interest because of donations to Democratic political candidates — something Scaramucci, daughter Ivanka Trump, and the president himself have done in the past.

Sekulow said while Trump’s legal team is monitoring potential conflicts, it hasn’t raised any with Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who appointed Mueller after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation.

“We’re going to be constantly evaluating that situation,’’ Sekulow said on ABC. ‘‘And if an investigation were to arise and we thought that the conflict was relevant, we would raise it without question.’’

Only Rosenstein can fire Mueller, and he has said he won’t do it without ‘‘good cause.’’ So Trump would first have to purge the upper ranks of the Justice Department until he finds someone willing to follow his orders and dismiss the special counsel.


Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, said even if Trump is frustrated, he should stop talking about the special counsel, Mueller’s staff, or the Russia investigation.

Scaramucci had nothing but glowing praise for new White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders when he made the rounds on the Sunday news shows.

‘‘I think Sarah does a great job. She’s an incredibly warm person. She’s incredibly authentic,’’ the new White House communications director said on CNN,’’ even adding that he’s letting Sanders take the bigger office while he settles on a smaller one because she has the tough job of taking hits from the press.

Then, at the end of the interview, Scaramucci said there’s only one thing he’s asking of Sanders. ‘‘Sarah, if you’re watching,’’ he said. ‘‘I love the hair and makeup person that we had on Friday, so I'd like to continue to use the hair and makeup person.’’

It’s unclear whether Scaramucci was referring specifically to the person who does Sanders’ hair and makeup, or more generally to whoever does that job for White House staffers who appear on camera.

But some immediately took issue with Scaramucci’s comments, saying they implied that Sanders’ physical appearance is related to how well she does at her highly public job.