President Donald Trump should not "threaten, much less order" the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller in the Russia investigation, former independent counsel Kenneth Starr said Thursday.
"Subject to the possibility of being fired for 'good cause,' Mueller should be allowed to do his work unhindered and unimpeded," Starr, who oversaw the Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky probes during the Clinton administration, wrote in an op-ed in The Washington Post.
"Absent the most extreme circumstances, the president would be singularly ill-advised to threaten, much less order, Mueller's firing."
Created nearly 20 years ago by Clinton Attorney General Janet Reno, the special counsel was "the right answer," Starr said, because it while is within the executive branch of government, the role is "assured of practical independence through binding regulations."
Mueller's fate "rests exclusively" with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Starr said.
"He alone is empowered to make that fateful decision.
"As a matter of honor, and in light of his sworn testimony before Congress, Rosenstein would inevitably resign if confronted with a White House directive to dismiss the special counsel.
"Wisdom counsels strongly against unleashing a 21st-century version of the Saturday Night Massacre of Watergate-era infamy."
On Oct. 20, 1973, President Richard Nixon fired independent prosecutor Archibald Cox — leading to the resignations of Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus.
Starr cautioned, however: "If Mueller wanders outside the bounds of professionalism and basic integrity, he can and should be fired.
"Concerns are already being raised — including about Mueller's friendship with [former FBI Director James] Comey and his staff-packing with anti-Trump partisans.
"He will be closely watched."
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