News & Politics

Former FBI head Robert Mueller to oversee Trump-Russia investigation


As special counsel, Mueller has the power to subpoena documents and prosecute any crimes, independent of Congress. Photograph: J. Scott Applewhite/AP
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The Department of Justice has appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate alleged ties between the 2016 presidential campaign of Donald Trump and Russian operatives. Mueller will also investigate Russian intervention in the election generally.

Mueller, 72, was appointed FBI director by George W Bush and served 12 years, including for the majority of Barack Obama’s presidency. He said in a statement on Wednesday: “I accept this responsibility and will discharge it to the best of my ability.”

The move to appoint such a substantial figure, coming in a week of multiple reports that have rocked the White House, was welcomed by many Republicans and Democrats. However, early Thursday, Donald Trump expressed displeasure on Twitter.

The tweets followed remarks he made at a public appearance on Wednesday at a coastguard academy in which he said no politician in history had been treated “worse or more unfairly”. Special counsel is a position that exists under a statute that allows the attorney general or a deputy, if the attorney general is recused, to mount an independent investigation.

This particular provision has been invoked only once before, in the Bill Clinton administration, when former Senator John Danforth was to investigate the Branch Davidian siege outside Waco, Texas.

The position is different from an independent counsel, the role in which Ken Starr investigated Bill Clinton throughout the 1990s. The law authorising that position expired in 1999.

Deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein made the decision to appoint Mueller. It was a letter from Rosenstein that the Trump administration initially presented last week as a central factor in the firing of James Comey as FBI director.

In an order announcing the appointment, Rosenstein explained he had taken the decision “to ensure a full and thorough investigation of the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election,” including “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.”

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