The Department of Justice has named Robert Mueller, the former director of the FBI, as a special prosecutor to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election and ties between the Trump administration and Russia.
The Justice Department made the announcement Wednesday at 6 p.m., following 10 days of political chaos and scandal that has shaken the already fragile administration of President Donald Trump. The decision follows a growing demand among Democrats and some Republicans for an outside authority to take over the Russia probe, after Trump’s abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey, which Trump acknowledged was driven in part by frustration with the FBI’s examination of Russia.
According to a memo that Comey wrote, and which has been read to reporters, Trump also asked Comey to drop an FBI investigation into Michael Flynn, the fired national-security adviser, two months before he was fired.
The appearance of political interference, and perhaps even obstruction of justice, on the part of the Trump administration convinced many lawmakers that the department could not handle the probe through the normal course of business.
“I accept this responsibility and will discharge it to the best of my ability,” Mueller said in a statement to CBS News.
President Trump issued a statement Wednesday evening:
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. 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.
The decision to appoint Mueller, whose formal title is special counsel, was signed by Rod Rosenstein, who is deputy attorney general but made the appointment as acting attorney general. That’s because Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been forced to recuse himself from the Russia probe, after admitting he failed to disclose meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to the Senate.
Rosenstein wrote in an order that Mueller is authorized to take over the investigation that Comey confirmed to Congress in a March hearing. That includes “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 from directly from the investigation.” It also gives Mueller authority to look into other crimes noted under a statute that establishes the special counsel, “such as perjury, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence, and intimidation of witnesses; and to conduct appeals arising out of the matter being investigated and/or prosecuted.”