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AP

Although Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is the only person who can fire Russia Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, Sean Spicer said Monday, "I get there may be a technicality as to whom reports to whom. But the bottom line is, is that everybody who is in a status of that serves at the pleasure of the President of the United States." What Spicer was suggesting: Trump can't directly fire Mueller, but he can fire Rosenstein.

Why this matters: There has been a lot of discussion over the independence (or lack thereof) of Mueller's investigation. Rosenstein recently assured the Senate Intelligence committee that he would only fire Mueller if there was "good cause", regardless of Trump's orders. But Spicer is insinuating that the president can still determine the special counsel's fate.

Other highlights from Spicer's off-camera briefing:

  • Does Trump have confidence in Rosenstein? "The President has confidence in everyone who serves him in this administration."
  • Russia threatening to target U.S. planes in Syria: "We're going to do what we can to protect our interests... and keep the lines of communication open," said Spicer. He later added that the U.S. wants to de-escalate the tensions there, but "we will always preserve the right of self-defense."
  • Did Trump tape Oval Office conversations? "It's possible we will have an answer to that by the end of the week."
  • Progress of AHCA bill in Senate: The WH feels "very good" about the bill's progress, said Spicer. He later added that he doesn't know whether WH staff has seen text of the secret Senate bill.
  • Why hasn't Trump said anything about the latest London terror attack? The president has been "made aware of the attack", and senior White House staff have been tracking the situation and are in contact with their British counterparts.
  • Why is today's briefing off camera? "I've said it since the beginning -- the President spoke today, he was on camera. He'll make another comment today at the technology summit. And there are days that I'll decide that the President's voice should be the one that speaks, and iterate his priorities."
  • Today's tech roundtable: Spicer said the goal of the WH is to give the tech sector "the most opportunity to create jobs" and stated the administration "will work with individuals regardless of what their past political beliefs are."

Go deeper

2 hours ago - World

Brazil begins distributing AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine

Containers carrying doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine arrive in Brazil. Photo: Maurio Pimentel/AFP via Getty Images

Brazil on Saturday began distributing the 2 million doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine that arrived from India Friday, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: Brazil has the third highest COVID-19 case-count in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The 2 million doses "only scratch the surface of the shortfall," Brazilian public health experts told the AP.

Sullivan speaks with Israel's national security adviser for the first time

Israeli national security adviser Meir Ben Shabbat U.S. Photo: Mazen Mahdi/Getty Images. U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan. Photo: Chandan Khanna/Getty Images

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke on the phone Saturday with his Israeli counterpart Meir Ben Shabbat, Israeli officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: This is the first contact between the Biden White House and Israeli prime minister's office. During the transition, the Biden team refrained from speaking to foreign governments.

Biden speaks to Mexican president about reversing Trump's "draconian immigration policies"

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Ismael Rosas/Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

President Biden told his Mexican counterpart, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, on a phone call Friday that he plans to reverse former President Trump’s “draconian immigration policies.”

The big picture: The Biden administration has already started repealing several of Trump’s immigration policies, including ordering a 100-day freeze on deporting many unauthorized immigrants, halting work on the southern border wall, and reversing plans to exclude undocumented people from being included in the 2020 census.