The White House has said that U.S. President Donald Trump "has the right" to fire the special counsel investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election, but he doesn't intend to do so.
The president has railed against the Russia investigation, which was taken over by Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller last month, as a "witch-hunt."
A close associate of Trump told PBS NewsHour on June 12 that Trump was considering firing Mueller one month after he fired former FBI Director James Comey, who previously headed the Russia investigation.
But White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters traveling aboard Air Force One late on June 13 that "while the president has the right to" fire Mueller, "he has no intention to do so."
Top Justice Department officials testified on June 13 that it's actually up to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who originally appointed Mueller to his post, to decide whether he should go, though the president could bypass that protocol.
While the White House has denied any intention to fire Mueller, close associates of Trump, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, are increasingly criticizing the Russia probe as too "political."
Based on reporting by AP and Reuters