Finally, Whitaker did previously talk about how an acting attorney general could shut down the investigation. He was responding to hypothetical questions about possible scenarios, including the selection of an attorney general who cuts Mueller’s budget “so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt.” In reality, it would be difficult to bring the investigation to an immediate halt, given the budget process, and Mueller appears to be wrapping it up anyway. Such a move would trigger an immediate investigation by Congress. It would, in short, be a baffling decision.
If anything, Whitaker’s prior statement puts greater pressure on him to avoid such an allegation of being a “stooge” on a mission. It is hard to judge the intent of Trump, given his hyperbolic and often inappropriate statements directed at Mueller and his investigation. However, putting such rhetoric aside, Trump has not carried out his threats. He has not, in fact, fired Mueller. In his White House press conference this week, Trump indicated that he would do the right thing in allowing Mueller to continue, even if he gave the wrong reason: “I could fire everybody right now, but I don’t want to stop it because politically I don’t like stopping it.”