(Via ABC News)
The United States Department of Justice announced Wednesday that a special counsel has been appointed to investigate Russian interference into last year’s presidential election and links or coordination with the campaign of President Donald Trump.
Former FBI Director Robert Mueller was assigned by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to “oversee the previously confirmed FBI investigation of Russian government efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, and related matters.”
The White House was informed of the decision less than an hour before it was publicly announced Wednesday and released a statement from the president more than two hours later.
“As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know — there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity,” read the statement. “I look forward to this matter concluding quickly. In the meantime, I will never stop fighting for the people and the issues that matter most to the future of our country.”
In a statement, Rosenstein said, “My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted. I have made no such determination. What I have determined is that based upon the unique circumstances, the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command.”
“I accept this responsibility and will discharge it to the best of my ability,” said Mueller in a statement.
On the Hill, a number of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle praised the selection of Mueller, who also served as a U.S. attorney.
Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah — who earlier Wednesday invited ousted FBI Director James Comey to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on issues related to the “FBI’s independence” — lauded Mueller’s “impeccable credentials” and said he “should be widely accepted.”
One of the first congressional Republicans to call for the appointment of a special prosecutor to address Russia’s alleged election meddling, California Rep. Darrell Issa said today, “It’s time to get to the bottom of this.”
“I’ve been pressing the DOJ to take this step for nearly 3 months because Americans deserve nothing less than the truth,” he added in a statement. “I have faith that Robert Mueller will provide the independence necessary to be sure this investigation is conducted with the trust and confidence of the American people.”
Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee that is currently investigating possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, said in a statement the announcement was “a good first step to get to the bottom of the many questions we have had about Russian interference in our election and possible ties to the president.”
Her Republican counterpart on the Judiciary Committee, chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, praised the Justice Department’s decision.
“I have a great deal of confidence Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and I respect his decision,” Grassley said. Because Attorney General Jeff Sessions previously recused himself from the investigation, it was Rosenstein, not Sessions, who announced the special counsel. “At the end of the day, we need a public accounting of what went on to restore faith in government,” Grassley added.
The chair and vice chair of the Senate Committee on Intelligence, which is also investigating the Trump/Russia issue, came together for a joint statement:
“The appointment of former FBI Director and respected lawyer Robert Mueller as special counsel for the Russia investigation is a positive development and will provide some certainty for the American people that the investigation will proceed fairly and free of political influence,” Sens. Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, and Mark Warner, D-Virginia, said in their statement, noting their committee would continue its own investigation.
As special counsel, Mueller can be expected to have the full powers and independent authority to exercise all investigative and prosecutorial functions of any United States attorney. These powers include the ability to take matters before a grand jury, issue subpoenas and assign federal agents to the case.