Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller to act as a special prosecutor overseeing the investigation into Russia’s alleged interference with last year’s Presidential election, on behalf of President Donald Trump.
Mueller, who served as the FBI’s top cop under George W. Bush, will have “authority to prosecute any federal crimes arising out of these matters”, Rosenstein said, adding that “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.”
Russia is suspected by all 17 US intelligence-gathering agencies as the provider of material assistance to the Trump campaign, including hacking into the Democratic National Committee’s Internet servers last summer, and leaking the contents to whistle blowing website Wikileaks.
Candidate Trump himself exhorted Russia to continue digging into the DNC’s emails, saying “Yes, I love Wikileaks“. Mueller’s office is said to be ready to direct particular attention to Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who recently registered as a foreign agent with the State Department because of his work in the Ukraine, and Michael Flynn, a retired Army general who resigned as Trump’s national security adviser over ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Rosenstein said Mueller’s appointment was triggered by two key events: last week’s firing of FBI director James Comey, who was investigating the President, and yesterday’s revelation that Comey documented a meeting in which Trump pressured the director to make the Flynn investigation “go away“.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recused himself from the investigations into Trump and Russia, citing conflicts of interest, made no comment on the Mueller appointment. “A special counsel is necessary,” Rosenstein noted, “for the American people to have full confidence in the outcome.”
The White House responded to the news of a special prosecutor by insisting the investigation would “produce no evidence of collusion” between Trump and the Russian government. “I look forward to this matter concluding quickly,” Trump declared.