And then there was a special prosecutor. Late Wednesday afternoon, the Justice Department announced that Robert Mueller, who preceded James Comey as FBI director, would be appointed special counsel to investigate ties between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia.
“If the Special Counsel believes it is necessary and appropriate, the Special Counsel is authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters,” the letter appointing Mueller says.
The decision was made by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The responsibility fell to him because Attorney General Jeff Sessions had to recuse himself from matters involving the Russia scandal after it was revealed that Sessions failed to disclose his meetings with the Russian ambassador during his Senate confirmation hearings.
Mueller was appointed to the FBI by former President George W. Bush; he led the bureau from 2001 to 2013.
“He’s totally incorruptible,” Dave Gomez, a former FBI agent who served nearly 30 years in the agency, says of Mueller. “And the agents and the executives at the FBI know and trust him to finish the job.”
Mueller assumes control of an investigation already well underway. NBC News reported Wednesday evening that there are now multiple grand jury subpoenas relating to Michael Flynn, Trump’s former National Security Advisor, and Paul Manafort, Trump’s ex-campaign manager.
“Special Counsel Mueller will have all appropriate resources to conduct a thorough and complete investigation,” Rosenstein said in a statement, “and I am confident that he will follow the facts, apply the law and reach a just result.”
Rosenstein reportedly didn’t clear the decision with the White House in advance, only giving Trump’s staff a 30-minute warning that the announcement was forthcoming.
BOOM. Special Counsel. https://t.co/mHjeybOAXW pic.twitter.com/hfb9vMlLHU
— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) May 17, 2017
The White House issued a brief statement from Trump following Wednesday’s announcement. (The president’s Twitter account, so far, has been unusually silent.)
NEW! Statement from President Donald J. Trump pic.twitter.com/DTEy8ILKGF
— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) May 17, 2017
This is a developing story that has been updated.