[JURIST] Former FBI director Robert Mueller was appointed [DOJ statement] as special counsel to the investigation of Russia's involvement in the 2016 presidential election on Wednesday. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein issued the order [text, PDF] in place of Attorney General Jeff Session who recused himself after admitting [NYT report] he had failed to disclose meetings he had with a Russian ambassador while he was serving as an advisor to the Trump campaign. Mueller is authorized to investigate any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump with or without consulting the Justice Department [official website]. As special counsel, Mueller will be able to [BBC report] issue subpoenas, bring criminal charges, and can prosecute anyone who interferes in his investigation through crimes including perjury, destruction of evidence, obstruction of justice, and intimidation of witnesses. Mueller can only be fired by Rosenstein for "good cause" which includes dereliction of duty, misconduct, conflict of interest, incapacity, and violation of department policies. This is only the second time the Justice Department has appointed a special counsel, the first being in 1999 when the law which created the position took effect.
The White House issued a formal statement [text] from Trump following the appointment:
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.On Thursday morning, Trump called the investigation [Twitter post] "the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!"
Robert Mueller served as director of the FBI under both Presidents Bush and Obama. He took the position of director just one week before the 9/11 attacks and is credited with rebuilding the FBI during the aftermath. Mueller worked closely with fellow former FBI director James Comey who was dismissed [JURIST report] last week. Mueller is viewed as one of the most reliable and credible law enforcement officials in the country by both democrats and republicans, although some are still calling [WP report] for an independent commission to lead an investigation as well. California Representative and ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff [official website] said [Twitter post] "Both are warranted" because "An independent commission has a very different purpose than an independent prosecutor." Others are concerned with Muellers employment with WilmerHale [official website], the law firm that represented Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort. Mueller is expected to announce his resignation from the firm.