Published: Thu, May 18, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

US special counsel named to investigate Trump-Russia ties

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced Mueller's selection in a sudden announcement Wednesday, amid calls in Congress - particularly from Democrats - to appoint a special prosecutor in the FBI's investigation into Russian election meddling and any ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. The White House was informed of the decision just an hour before the news was publicly announced, and many in the Federal Bureau of Investigation had no notice at all, sources told ABC News.

The appointment of Mueller - who is widely respected on both sides of the aisle - comes after growing outcry, mostly from Democrats, amid fallout of President Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey last week.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee demurred when asked about whether it was the right move or not.

"I believe Mueller will be independent, he will be thorough and he will be fair and he's not going to be easily swayed", said Elijah Cummings of Maryland, top Democrat on the oversight panel.

The Justice Department abruptly appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller Wednesday night as a special counsel to lead a federal investigation into allegations that Donald Trump's campaign collaborated with Russian Federation to sway the 2016 election that put him in the White House. "[This task includes evaluating] any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump" and "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation". He also was an assistant attorney general under President George H.W. Bush. Moscow has dismissed the allegations, and the Trump team has denied any collusion with Russian Federation.

Special counsels are appointed to avoid potential conflicts of interest in Justice Department investigations.

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Mr. Mueller ran the FBI from 2001 to 2013, reshaping the bureau to focus on counterterrorism after the September 11 attacks, which confronted him a week into the job and raised questions about whether the nation's premier law-enforcement body was equipped to protect the homeland. "The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will also continue its investigation into this matter".

In making the appointment, Rosenstein said in a statement that his decision "is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted". On Tuesday The New York Times reported that Comey wrote an internal memo recalling that Trump, before firing him, had asked him to drop the FBI's probe into Russian connections with Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser.

"The fact that Comey didn't tell anybody about it, didn't report it, that his own deputy director didn't think the investigation was being impeded in any way", King said. Dianne Feinstein and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, both hailed his appointment as special counsel. Impeccable credentials. Should be widely accepted."But Rep. Peter King of NY is expressing concern over the wide purview special prosecutors have".

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of NY said Mueller's appointment gave him "significantly greater confidence that the investigation will follow the facts wherever they lead". "Bob and I would be in the middle of a testimony and I would say something to Mueller like, 'Bob isn't that the dumbest question you've ever heard in your life?' (And he would say, ) 'shut up'".

"I just don't think there is any need for it". And later, as head of the Justice Department's criminal division, he oversaw high-profile prosecutions that brought victories against targets as varied as Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega and NY crime boss John Gotti. "Director Mueller will still be in the chain of command under the Trump-appointed leadership of the Justice Department".

Several aspects of this development are encouraging, beginning with the fact that it was Rosenstein who did the deed.

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