Special Counsel Appointed to Oversee Russia Investigation
Corey Uhden, Politics Contributor
The Department of Justice has appointed Former FBI Director Robert Mueller to oversee FBI’s investigation of the Russian Government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election, including “investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts,” as former FBI Director James Comey testified to the House Intelligence Committee on March 20th.
During his confirmation hearing for Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein testified that he would appoint a special counsel if “it's appropriate based upon the policies and procedures of the Justice Department.” Saying it’s “a matter of principle,” Rosenstein suggested he would appoint a special counsel in any case if he felt there was a conflict of interest and it was in the public interest to do so. Today, Rod Rosenstein was forced to make that call.
Because Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from matters relating to the Trump campaign and Russia, Rosenstein announced,“I determined that it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authority and appoint a Special Counsel to assume responsibility for this matter.” Likely responding to reports yesterday that James Comey believed President Trump had attempted to pressure him into dropping an investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller “in order for the American people to have full confidence in the outcome” of the investigation.
“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.” - Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein
Lawmakers from both sides of aisle praised the decision. Republicans were effusive in their praise for Mueller’s “impeccable credentials” with some saying he’s “beyond reproach.” Democrats, insistent that a special prosecutor be named before they vote on confirmation of a new Director of the FBI, seem to be satisfied with Mueller's appointment as well. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted, “former Director Mueller is exactly the right kind of individual to serve as special counsel in the Russia investigation.”
ABC News’ White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl reported that the appointment caught the White House off guard, but President Trump issued a statement saying “a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know - there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity.” Rosenstein concluded, “Special Counsel Mueller will have all appropriate resources to conduct a thorough and complete investigation, and I am confident that he will follow the facts, apply the law and reach a just result.” The investigations will continue in the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, told reporters, “it’s full steam ahead” with his own efforts to shield the FBI from undue political pressure.
It’s come to this: the former Director of the FBI under presidents Bush and Obama has left his private practice to insure the integrity of a counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election and related matters. As Rosenstein notes, this is “not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted” but given the reports yesterday, it’s inevitable Mueller will have to consider investigating the president’s conduct and the subsequent firing of his friend and successor, Comey. That could even entail investigating Rosenstein, but it’s come to this.
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