Former FBI Director Mueller Appointed Special Counsel To Oversee Russia Probe

Vincent Carr
May 20, 2017

SHAPIRO: That's NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley on breaking news that the Justice Department has named a special counsel, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, to handle the Russian Federation investigation.

Pelosi said the American people "deserve answers and to get to the bottom of the Trump-Russia connection and possible collusion to influence the election".

"The president has never asked Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn", it said.

In the past, the Department of Justice has appointed outside individuals to lead investigations like Watergate, the "Whitewater" investigation into President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton's real estate dealings, and the 2003 investigation into the leak of the identity of a former Central Intelligence Agency operative. "It is obvious that there are some people out there who want to harm the president".

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, a member of the Judiciary Committee, told MSNBC: "Bob Mueller has the experience and expertise, the guts and backbone, to ensure the independence of this investigation".

On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee asked the White House for all audio recordings, transcripts, notes and other records of Trump's meetings with Comey, and joined the Senate Intelligence Committee in asking the Federal Bureau of Investigation for any Comey memos. The official said there was widespread agreement among staff that the appointment of Mueller provides Trump and his aides with the opportunity to "commit ourselves to doubling down on the agenda".

Rep. Adam Kinzinger of IL, one of the first Republicans to call for appointment of a special counsel, called Mueller "a fantastic person".

The New York Times published a report Tuesday saying that Trump had asked Comey to end the FBI investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was sacked over his communications with Russian officials.

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But McConnell acknowledged that "it would be helpful to have less drama emanating from the White House".

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made the appointment, amid calls for a special counsel after multiple revelations in recent days threatened to derail the investigation. He will resign from his private law firm WilmerHale to avoid any conflicts of interest, the Justice Department said. Manafort is Trump's former campaign chairman, and has been an important focus of the US investigation of Trump's associates and Russian Federation.

"The appointment of former FBI director and respected lawyer Robert Mueller as special counsel for the Russian Federation 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", said Sens.

In the job, Mueller will have all the same powers as a US attorney, though he will still ultimately report to Rosenstein. This was the only option for the Justice Department to take. He will request a budget that includes personnel.

Mueller is a veteran law enforcement figure who spent more than 35 years in public service.

That investigation included hundreds of interviews and a restaging of the final hours of the 51-day standoff with federal agents.

Lawfare Blog, a site featuring posts by prominent attorneys and associated with the Brookings Institute, notes that "the longstanding position of the Executive Branch is that the sitting President cannot be prosecuted" so "the immediate question is not whether this pattern of behavior-or any individual component of it-could support a prosecution and criminal conviction for obstruction of justice. Reporters are protected by judges and juries, by a congress that relies on them to stay informed, and by a Justice Department that for decades has honored the role of a free press by spurning prosecutions of journalists for publishing leaks of classified information". The counsel is not required to consult with or keep informed the attorney general or deputy attorney generals on the course of the probe. The thought behind naming Mueller as special counsel is to give him autonomy as someone separate from administration.

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