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WASHINGTON | Criticism of special counsel Robert Mueller used to be off limits.

They say Trump did not collude with Russian Federation and see the investigation as a politically motivated sham that handicaps Trump's ability to execute his agenda, according to one person who advises the White House on how to handle the probe.

Comey testified that he told the president he was not personally under investigation three times and confirmed that Trump was not under investigation at the time of his firing on May 9.

A number of key Republicans have publicly advised Trump to keep Mueller. Trump hasn't commented on the former Federal Bureau of Investigation director. "I have confidence in Mr. Mueller", he said.

But expressions of discontent with Mueller are bubbling up nonetheless. "It is my view that fully investigating the facts, circumstances, and rationale for Mr. Comey's removal will provide us the opportunity to do that on a cooperative, bipartisan basis". He added that fundraising records show some of the lawyers whom Mueller selected for his team have contributed to Democrats.

For example, at Attorney General Jeff Sessions' Senate confirmation hearing, he said, "I have been called a surrogate a time or two in that campaign, and I did not have communications with the Russians". What does seem unusual: the things Trump's team has said about these meetings that turned out not to be true.

Trump was apparently bothered by reports from conservative outlets like Breitbart News linking Mueller to Comey.

Peter Carr, a spokesman for special counsel Mueller, also declined to comment.

"I don't think that's a question for me to answer", Rosenstein responded.

The president's personal friend, Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy said late Monday that Trump was considering terminating Mueller. The Post said both men refused the president's request.

Sanders' comment follows several days of speculation as to whether Trump was thinking about firing Mueller.

Trump has the power to unilaterally remove Mueller from the job, but legal experts argue that would create a crisis in American institutions.

President Donald Trump lashed out Thursday at the investigators driving the Russian Federation investigation as "very bad and conflicted people", responding angrily to reports that the special counsel is looking into whether Trump obstructed justice. That was something that Special Consul Mueller would have to examine, Comey had said. Still, Gingrich said any special counsel with an agenda can "all of the sudden find something procedural and technical to latch onto". However, Sessions incorrectly told the Senate Intelligence Committee that he had no further ethical obligation.

The statement was made to NBC after the Washington Post reported Wednesday evening that Robert Mueller, the special counsel hired by the Justice Department, had widened the scope of the investigation to include the president.

However, Sessions did meet with Kislyak at least twice while working with Trump's campaign.

He also said Comey should have shared his concerns about the Trump conversation with another Justice Department official, Dana Boente, who was then acting deputy attorney general, and would have been Comey's direct supervisor.

"I do not", Sessions said when asked whether he knows whether the president records his conversations.