In an early morning tweet, President Donald Trump suggested Thursday that he is legally able to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller—despite an understanding among legal experts that he does not have this authority.
If I wanted to fire Robert Mueller in December, as reported by the Failing New York Times, I would have fired him. Just more Fake News from a biased newspaper!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 12, 2018
Earlier this week, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also stated that the president "certainly has the power" to dismiss Mueller, who has been conducting an investigation into Trump's 2016 campaign since the president fired former FBI Director James Comey last May.
In at least two Supreme Court cases, the nation's top judges have ruled that the president cannot legally remove employees of a government agency—an authority that lies with the heads of each department.
In an 1839 decision, the Supreme Court said "the president has certainly no power to remove" officials, while current Chief Justice John G. Roberts found just eight years ago that "it is ordinarily the department head, rather than the president, who enjoys the power of removal."
Critics and Democratic leaders have warned that any move by Trump to fire Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein—undermining or ending the Justice Department's investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russia—would throw the nation into a constitutional crisis and spark calls for impeachment proceedings.
More than 300,000 Americans have prepared to revolt in the event of such an incident, with MoveOn.org and other groups planning more than 800 demonstrations in all 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
"We can't have the highest office of the land exempt from abiding by the law," Erich Picha, president of Friends of the Earth U.S., told Reuters on Wednesday.