The theory that President Donald Trump terminating the special counsel is only a trial balloon appears to have some truth to it. The president deliberately made his position on firing Robert Mueller intentionally ambiguous because Trump has a purpose.

Trump’s purpose is to pressure Mueller into coming out with a blanket public exoneration of his involvement in the obstruction of justice investigation, The New York Times reported. He has entertained the idea, but his staff discouraged the president because it would only worsen the bad situation Trump is in by making it a catastrophe.

Mueller is not easily scared

The Washington Post pointed out Trump’s belief he could pressure Mueller stems from the president’s misunderstanding what motivates the special counsel. As former FBI director, Mueller stood his ground on previous presidents and never caved under political pressure.

The 72-year-old, after all, is not just a Marine Corps veteran. For his stint in the Vietnam War, Mueller was awarded the Purple Heart and a Bronze Star with Valor. In contrast, 71-year-old Trump got a medical deferment for heel spurs during the Vietnam War and avoided military service.

Starr’s opinion

Trump has been warned by key figures in Capitol Hill and conservative legal experts removing Mueller would lead to a constitutional crisis which just made firing the special counsel almost an impossible option.

One of those who cautioned Trump against terminating Mueller is Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel in the Monica Lewinsky and Whitewater investigations which involved President Bill Clinton.

In an op-ed in The Washington Post, Starr pointed out Trump must allow Mueller to do his work unimpeded and unhindered. Since the most extreme circumstances against the special counsel are not there, it would be ill-advised for the president to threaten or fire Mueller.

Starr cited legal binding regulations that the fate of the special counsel is in the hands of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Trump, however, tweeted he fired FBI Director James Comey, which triggered the obstruction of justice probe, based on the recommendation of Mueller and Rosenstein.

Since the deputy AG has become the new target of the president, Rosenstein said he will not recuse himself from the investigation or allow Mueller to be dismissed without legitimate reason. Rosenstein, however, privately told people at the Justice Department if circumstances would change, he would reconsider recusing himself.

Volatile president

While for now, the staff prevailed, people close to Trump said the president is so volatile they do not rule out he would change his mind about firing Mueller. What would make him do it is if Trump finds out Mueller’s investigation was compromised.