Has the process for Trump’s impeachment begun? Former FBI Director Robert Mueller was appointed as a special counsel to lead the investigation into allegations that Trump’s campaign collaborated with Russia to sway the election.
The Justice Department appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special counsel to lead a federal investigation into allegations that Donald Trump’s campaign collaborated with Russia to sway the 2016 election that put him in the White House.
Mueller will have sweeping powers and the authority to prosecute any crimes he uncovers.
The surprise announcement to hand the probe over to Mueller was a striking shift for Trump’s Justice Department, which had resisted increasing calls from Democrats for an outside prosecutor.
It immediately escalated the legal stakes — and the potential political damage — for a president who has tried to dismiss the matter as a partisan witch hunt and a “hoax.”
The announcement was made by deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. He said the appointment was “necessary in order for the American people to have full confidence in the outcome.”
In a written statement, Trump insisted anew there were no nefarious ties between his campaign and Russia.
“A thorough investigation will confirm what we already know — there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity,” he declared. “I look forward to this matter concluding quickly.”
Mueller’s broad mandate gives him not only oversight of the Russia probe, but also “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” That would surely include Trump’s firing last week of FBI Director James Comey.
Mueller, a former federal prosecutor at the Justice Department, was confirmed as FBI director days before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Republicans have largely stood behind Trump in the first months of his presidency as the FBI and congressional investigations into Russia’s election meddling intensified. But GOP lawmakers have grown increasingly anxious since Trump fired Comey, who had been leading the bureau’s probe — and after Comey associates said he had notes from a meeting in which Trump asked him to shut down the investigation into the Russia ties of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said the appointment was consistent with his goal of ensuring that “thorough and independent investigations are allowed to follow the facts wherever they may lead.”
Republican Jason Chaffetz of Utah, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said Mueller was a “great selection. Impeccable credentials. Should be widely accepted.”
“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 of Maryland, top Democrat on the oversight panel. Cummings has vigorously urged such an appointment, suggesting it could lead to accusations of obstruction of justice.
A Gathering Storm
The latest political storm, coupled with the still-potent fallout from Trump’s recent disclosure of classified information to Russian diplomats at the White House, has overshadowed all else in the capital and beyond. Stocks fell sharply on Wall Street Wednesday as investors worried the latest turmoil in Washington could hinder Trump’s pro-business agenda
Trump has repeatedly slammed the FBI and congressional investigations as a “hoax” and blamed disgruntled officials at intelligence agencies for leaking information related to the probes.
During a commencement address Wednesday at the Coast Guard Academy, he complained bitterly about criticism he’s faced.
“No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly,” he said. “You can’t let the critics and the naysayers get in the way of your dreams. … I guess that’s why we won. Adversity makes you stronger. Don’t give in, don’t back down. … And the more righteous your fight, the more opposition that you will face.”