Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has been in charge of the Russian investigation because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself, announced on Wednesday that he has appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee the investigation.
“In my capacity as acting Attorney General, 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,” Rosenstein said in a statement.
“My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted. I have made no such determination. What I have determined is that 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.”
In his statement, Rosenstein also touched on the unique nature of this investigation, “Considering the unique circumstances of this matter, however, I determined that a Special Counsel is necessary in order for the American people to have full confidence in the outcome. Our nation is grounded on the rule of law, and the public must be assured that government officials administer the law fairly. 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.”
Mueller said in a statement, “I accept this responsibility and will discharge it to the best of my ability.”
Mueller first started as Director of the FBI a week before the September 11th terrorist attack and served until 2013. He was then succeeded by James Comey, whom President Donald Trump fired a week ago. The order signed by Rosenstein gives Mueller the ability to “prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters.” Mueller also has been given civil service protection which means President Trump cannot easily fire him.
The White House was only given a half hour’s advance notice on the matter. On Monday, Press Secretary Sean Spicer had told inquiring reporters, “There’s, frankly, no need for a special prosecutor. We’ve discussed this before.”
However, Rosenstein came to a different conclusion.
In a statement, President Trump said, “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 news continues a week of harmful developments for the Trump White House. On Monday, the Washington Post reported how Trump shared classified information with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador. Then on Tuesday, the New York Times reported on a memo from Comey that detailed how Trump pressured Comey to drop the investigation into former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn. The stories’ damage has been getting compounded by the constant stream of scoops (with many reporters joking on Twitter about their publication during the 5 PM ET hour). Some Republicans have also started to distance themselves from the President or had began to talk openly about a special prosecutor. Some Democrats, mostly in the House of Representatives, have also began to call for Trump’s impeachment.