By Howard Kurtz, ,
Published December 22, 2017
The media are constantly warning that President Trump might fire Robert Mueller, triggering a political firestorm and a constitutional crisis.
There is, however, a small problem with this story line: Trump and his top aides keep denying it.
Not that journalists are letting that spoil the fun.
A reporter asked the president days ago if he was considering firing Bob Mueller.
"No I'm not," Trump said.
On "America’s Newsroom" yesterday, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: "We have no intention of firing Bob Mueller. We are continuing to work closely and cooperate with him. We look forward to seeing this hoax wrap up very soon."
Now an investigation that has led to an indictment of Trump’s former campaign manager and a guilty plea from his former national security adviser is not exactly a hoax. But Sanders was unambiguous on the firing question.
Still, the pundits keep pounding away. On MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" yesterday, John Heilemann told Republican Sen. Bob Corker: "I want to ask you personally what your reaction would be if the president did try to fire the special prosecutor."
Corker said "there would be an uprising and a revolt."
In fairness, Heilemann was reacting in part to a Senate floor speech by Democrat Mark Warner, who declared that any attempt by Trump to dump Mueller or shut down the Russia probe "would be a gross abuse of power" and that these were "red lines" that could not be crossed.
Was Warner just taking a partisan shot? He gave no indication that he believes such a move is in the works.
Now no one can say it's impossible that Trump won't change his mind and try to get rid of Mueller. The prosecutor could bring new charges or make sweeping demands for evidence that would anger the president and prod him into action.
But the administration isn't sending such signals. In fact, the firing would have to be carried out by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who recently testified that he thinks Mueller is doing a good job and could only be removed for valid reasons.
So at the moment, all this amounts to an orgy of speculation.
The Washington Post, jumping on Warner’s remarks, ran a story yesterday titled "The Growing Specter of Robert Mueller’s Firing." The article declares that “the environment for attempting to fire Mueller is clearly improving.”
Here’s a Bloomberg piece titled "What Might Happen If Trump Orders Mueller Fired."
The media mindset was perfect captured by a Chicago Tribune column with the headline: "Trump Says He Won’t Fire Bob Mueller. Don’t Believe Him."
Why not? Eric Zorn wrote that "the big reason is that I simply don't believe it, just as I didn't believe Trump’s assurance that he had a plan to provide 'great health care, at a tiny fraction of the cost.' I didn’t believe him when he said super-wealthy people wouldn't benefit from a Republican tax overhaul, that it would personally cost him a fortune and that someday he'd release his tax returns."
In other words, he doesn't trust the guy and disagrees with his policies.
The media will have every right to go bonkers if Trump tries to oust the prosecutor investigating him. But for now, it may be the most overcovered hypothetical question in politics.