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Mueller to probe Trump Russia

18 May 2017

A former Federal Bureau of Investigation boss has been named special counsel to oversee an inquiry into Russia's alleged meddling in the election and any Trump campaign ties. The man for the job is former FBI Director Robert Mueller, the immediate predecessor to James Comey. That includes any links between Trump campaign associates and Russian Federation, as well as "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation", according to the letter appointing him.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of NY said Mueller's appointment gave him "significantly greater confidence that the investigation will follow the facts wherever they lead".

"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".

In a written statement shortly after Mueller's appointment was announced, Trump said a thorough investigation will confirm "there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity".

"I accept this responsibility and will discharge it to the best of my ability", Mueller said in a statement Wednesday, according to the Guardian.

He was the second-longest Federal Bureau of Investigation director in history.

Staffers now face the prospect that they will be examined by Mueller's probe and will worry about their own potential legal jeopardy, and must cope with the corrosive reality of working in an administration that will now be under a dark cloud of investigation and uncertainty for months or even years to come. The FBI's counterterror mission was elevated in those years, as the U.S. intelligence agencies adjusted to better position America to prevent another attack of such magnitude. Undeterred, Comey's associates then revealed that the former FBI chief has a memo of a meeting with Trump in which the president asks for the investigation into ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn to be stopped.

That raised questions about whether the president improperly attempted to interfere with a federal investigation.

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News of the special counsel announcement was closely held.

"My decision [to appoint a special counsel] is not the finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted".

U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said he made a decision to appoint a special counsel not because he believes "crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted", but because he believes "a special counsel is necessary in order for the American people to have full confidence in the outcome" of the investigation. I have made no such determination.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement on Wednesday that "as long as his character is appropriately defined and he is properly resourced, this is a good move". He will resign from his private law firm WilmerHale to avoid any conflicts of interest, the Justice Department said.

In his new role as special counsel, he will have wide latitude to take the investigation wherever he thinks it should go and can use the full range of Justice Department investigative tools, said Jack Sharman, an attorney who served as special counsel during a probe into the Whitewater real-estate investments of President Bill Clinton in 1995.

Republican Jason Chaffetz of Utah, chairman of the oversight panel, said Mueller was a "great selection".

In a striking show of bipartisanship, on Wednesday night Democrats and Republicans alike praised Mueller's appointment. Although he was appointed to head the F.B.I.by a Republican President, George W. Bush, he is widely seen as an apolitical figure.

A special counsel has independent powers to take the investigations through any course deemed necessary.

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He is a Vietnam War veteran.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, he spent the next 12 years wrestling the agency into a battle-hardened terrorism-fighting force.

He was asked by Democratic President Barack Obama in 2011 to stay on for two more years and was replaced by Mr. Comey in 2013.

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Although Mr. Mueller will serve at the pleasure of Mr. Rosenstein, the job comes with independence and autonomy.

Trump's alleged pressure on Comey - denied by the White House - has exposed the president to accusations of obstructing justice.

At one point, Comey rushed to hospital bedside of Attorney General John Ashcroft to try to persuade him not to certify the extension sought by White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and chief of staff Andrew Card Jr.

"I believe Mueller will be independent, he will be thorough, and he will be fair and he's not going to be easily swayed", said Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, which is also investigating the Russian matter.

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