A defiant President Trump again proclaimed that there were no ties between his presidential campaign and Russia on the heels of a Justice Department announcement that a special counsel would take over the probe.
Former FBI Director Robert Mueller, who served a decade and was then reappointed by President Obama, will take over the executive branch investigation.
‘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,’ Trump said in a statement released several hours after the news broke.
The Justice Department announced that Mueller would serve as special counsel, and would have ‘all appropriate resources’ to carry out the probe – during a week when Donald Trump‘s White House was battered by disclosures about his contacts with the Russians and his firing of former FBI Director James Comey.
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Democrats in Congress have been pushing for an independent investigation that would be free from interference from Trump administration officials, as well as a special congressional commission that might probe deeper into charges that Russia tried to sway the election through hacking and other means.
It wasn’t immediately clear how or whether Trump’s contacts with Comey and reported efforts to either steer or inquire about the FBI’s Russia probes played a role in the decision.
The White House had repeatedly an independent investigation wasn’t needed.
Wednesday night, Trump said he hoped the investigation would be speedy.
‘I look forward to this matter concluding quickly,’ he said. ‘In the meantime, I will never stop fighting for the people and the issues that matter most to the future of our country.’
President George W. Bush appointed Mueller to lead the FBI in 2001. He was reappointed by President Obama 10 years later to serve an addition two years. He has a reputation among members of both parties for probity.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the move Wednesday evening, after getting grilled during his own confirmation hearings about under what circumstances he would be willing to appoint a special counsel.
‘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.
‘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,’ he continued.
Rosenstein added, ‘Each year, the career professionals of the U.S. Department of Justice conduct tens of thousands of criminal investigations and handle countless other matters without regard to partisan political considerations.’