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Trump has made it clear that he is frustrated by the investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election, which United States intelligence officials have said was done to tilt the outcome in Trump's favor.

Newly appointed special counsel Robert S. Mueller III in a 2013 photo.

A top aide to President Donald Trump suggested that special counsel Robert Mueller is biased even as the White House worked to end a day of speculation over whether the president is considering firing the head of the Russian Federation probe.

"If President Trump really does fire Robert Mueller", Frum said, "he might as well just hire a skywriter to trace in smoke over the White House, 'I am super guilty'".

He also said that he believed it would be "a very significant mistake" for Trump to fire Mueller, but emphasized that he was concerned about what he described as conflicts. His spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders, however, would later tell reporters the president "has no intention" to dismiss Mueller. He too said Mueller should be left to conduct his investigation independently. Because Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the Russian Federation probe, the responsibility would fall to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who Trump could order to fire Mueller.

Collins' question wasn't the only time the Mueller investigation came up during Rosenstein's hearing on Capitol Hill.

The decision to fire the special counsel would rest with him alone, he said, despite conjecture that Trump could fire him if he did not acquiesce to orders, or repeal the regulations that govern the appointment and fire Mueller himself.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, however, did say he would be "surprised" if Trump fired Mueller.

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Sessions was supposed to testify before the appropriations committee, as past attorneys general have, but on Saturday, Sessions wrote the chairmen of both committees and said he was sending his deputy attorney general to testify in his place. We don't know if it's going to happen or if it won't happen.

It would be hard to make the case, he said, that the experience of interviewing for Federal Bureau of Investigation director would make it impossible for Mueller to fairly exercise the broad discretion afforded to prosecutors.

The White House pushed back, but only hours after the claim had been parsed and dissed with warnings about how it would only make things worse for Trump, who chose to ignore it all together in a series of tweets on Tuesday morning, and seemed more focussed on a fresh setback to his travel ban.

Ruddy told Woodruff that Trump was optimistic after the Comey hearing and "generally felt he had won a victory".

"I think he's weighing that option", Ruddy said. Newt Gingrich, who is close to Trump, tweeted: "Republicans are delusional if they think the special counsel is going to be fair". "Look who he is hiring".

- James Quarles contributed $32,800 to Democrats and $2,700 to Republicans from 1998 to 2016.

Matt Lewis, a CNN political commentator, said Trump has a pattern of surprise moves, such as the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel about a week later.

Allies of the President cast doubt on the idea that Mr Trump would take such a drastic step, and officials said Mr Ruddy had not met Mr Trump directly while visiting the White House on Monday.