On the same day that House Democrats introduced a bill to form an independent commission on Russia (due to the sheer enormity and politically hairy nature of the scandal), the Justice Department has taken matters into their own hands on their end. Following President Trump’s termination of FBI Director James Comey, the DOJ has appointed ex-FBI Director Robert Mueller to take over the probe into Russian interference in the election.
Since the Russia thing is not a straightforward matter, Muller’s duties will not only include overseeing the investigation into hacking, Wikileaks, the DNC emails, and so on. He will also be tasked with digging into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. This would include possibly leveling charges against several Trump associates, including Paul Manafort, Carter Page, and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn (after Trump reportedly tried to pressure Comey into letting Flynn off the hook). Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made the call, via the New York Times:
“I determined that it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authorities and appoint a special counsel to assume responsibility for this matter,” Mr. Rosenstein said in a statement. “My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted. I have made no such determination.”
While such a statement would ordinarily fall from the lips of the attorney general himself, Jeff Sessions has recused himself from all investigations involving Russia. And at least for the moment, he’s sticking to that vow, unlike when he put his name on the memo that ended in Comey’s firing last week. Mueller will officially report to Rosenstein, but he’ll also answer (by extension) to President Trump. So, the game is on. Again.
UPDATE: Further reports indicate that the White House was informed, rather than asked, about the appointment with very short notice. This has created an “air of uncertainty” for the administration, but Trump insisted, “There was no collusion.” He also expects the investigation to fully clear his campaign.
(Via New York Times)