President Donald Trump is an unpredictable hothead. Rumors that he wants to fire special counsel Robert Mueller are rampant. Trump firing Mueller himself, while within his authority as president, would create a both a political and public nightmare.
To avoid this, Trump could request that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein fire Mueller. Trump would, of course, have to ask the number 2 guy instead of Attorney Jeff Sessions, since Sessions recused himself from the entire case.
Rosenstein, however, could refuse to fire Mueller, and decide instead to resign or be fired himself. Then Trump would have to go to the Number 3 official at the Department of Justice, Rachel Brand. Trump could continue to go down the line until he finds someone willing to carry out his wishes.
But even if Trump finds someone willing to grant his biggest wish and gets rid of Mueller, that doesn’t mean the investigation is over. A new special counsel could be appointed. If a successor isn’t appointed, the investigation could still carry on. Mueller’s probe isn’t actually one case. There are multiple cases and investigations taking place, all under Mueller’s leadership, including the cases against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates.
Were Mueller fired, the assigned FBI agents would return to Washington, and the cases would likely be handed over to the appropriate US District Attorney.
Mueller is a smart man, and has more than likely kept the fact that he could be fired in his mind at all times during his investigation. It is foolish to believe that hasn’t left enough breadcrumbs behind that a newly assigned special counsel wouldn’t be able to easily follow them. Mueller has been a few steps ahead for the entirety of the investigation. Proof of this can be seen in the surprise news last fall that Papadapolous had been arrested, pleaded guilty, and was cooperating with Mueller’s investigation for weeks without even a bit of that information being leaked.
Trump’s belief that simply getting rid of Robert Mueller could be the end to all his problems only illustrates how little foresight Trump possesses.