Defiant President Trump Insists There Was “No Collusion” — As Former FBI Director Robert Mueller to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election

Robert S. Mueller III, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), speaks at the International Conference on Cyber Security (ICCS) on August 8, 2013 in New York City. The ICCS, which is co-hosted by Fordham University and the FBI, is held every 18 months; more than 25 countries are represented at this year's conference

  • The Justice Department has named a special to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election
  • Longtime former FBI Director Robert Mueller will lead the probe
  • Democrats and others have been demanding an independent probe that would be free from possible interference
  • Inquiry to probe any links ‘between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump’ 
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said he will recuse himself from election investigations, after his own undisclosed meetings with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. were revealed 
  • Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the move 
  • He said Mueller would have ‘all appropriate resources’ 
  • News broke as Trump was interviewing candidates to be the new FBI director – who will no longer oversee the Russia probe

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 Wednesday night.

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 14:  FBI Director Robert Mueller III testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee during a oversight hearing on Capitol Hill December 14, 2011 in Washington, DC. Mueller testified on the over 2,500 open cases the FBI Corporate and Securities is probing for fraud after they are up close to 50 percent from 2008.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 14: FBI Director Robert Mueller III testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee during a oversight hearing on Capitol Hill December 14, 2011 in Washington, DC. Mueller testified on the over 2,500 open cases the FBI Corporate and Securities is probing for fraud after they are up close to 50 percent from 2008. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

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.

The White House has spent weeks batting back efforts to install an independent outsider to lead the Russia probe, saying there are already sufficient probes. As Special Counsel, Mueller will have a wide berth to follow the investigation where he sees fit, and set his own terms for how much information he wants to reveal or withhold.

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.’

He continued: ‘I have great confidence in the independence and integrity of our people and our processes. Considering the unique circumstances of this matter, however, I determined that a Special Counsel is necessary in order for the American people to have full confidence in the outcome.’

‘Our nation is grounded on the rule of law, and the public must be assured that government officials administer the law fairly. Special Counsel Mueller will have all appropriate resources to conduct a thorough and complete investigation, and I am confident that he will follow the facts, apply the law and reach a just result,’ he added.

A letter appointing Mueller as special counsel charges him with investigating links 'between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump'

A letter appointing Mueller as special counsel charges him with investigating links ‘between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump’

Sen. John McCain compared Trump scandals to Watergate in scope in comments Tuesday, where he also referenced Iran-Contra

Sen. John McCain compared Trump scandals to Watergate in scope in comments Tuesday, where he also referenced Iran-Contra

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, US President Donald Trump, and Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak (L-R) talking during a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, US President Donald Trump, and Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak (L-R) talking during a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House

In this Sept. 4, 2013, file photo, then-incoming FBI Director James Comey talks with outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller before Comey was officially sworn in at the Justice Department in Washington

In this Sept. 4, 2013, file photo, then-incoming FBI Director James Comey talks with outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller before Comey was officially sworn in at the Justice Department in Washington

Rosenstsein’s letter tasks Mueller with investigating links ‘between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.’

The wide scope also includes ‘any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation’ – which would appear to include any efforts Trump may have made to interfere with the FBI’s investigation of National Security Advisor Mike Flynn.

‘I accept this responsibility and will discharge it to the best of my ability,’ Mueller said in a statement.

Rosenstein didn’t inform the White House or the Attorney General of the decision until after he had signed the order, CNN reported.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions was spotted at the White House about 5 pm Wednesday, about an hour before the news broke.

It wasn’t immediately clear what Sessions was doing at the White House. In response to an inquiry from DailyMail.com, a DOJ official said: The White House was informed after the order was signed as was the attorney general.

In Mueller, the department has tapped a counsel with a reputation for probity.

The soon-to-be special counsel was born outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and earned degrees from Princeton, New York University and the University of Virginia.

A decorated war veteran, he served as a Marine in Vietnam and came home with a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry and two Navy commendation medals.

Mueller took over the helm of the FBI in 2001. In July, after he was nominated by then President George W. Bush, the Justice Department announced that he had prostate cancer and would undergo surgery.

That surgery was scheduled for three days after his confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

His nomination passed unanimously on the Senate floor on August 2, 2001, 98-0.

Mueller didn’t fully step into the job until September 4, 2001, a week before the Sept. 11, terror attacks.

Democrats have been calling for an independent probe of Moscow’s alleged election interference since the existence of the FBI’s Russia probe was reported and then confirmed by ex FBI Director Mueller during Trump’s first 100 days in office.

The calls only increased after Trump sacked Comey last week. The president said in an NBC interview that the FBI’s Russia probe, which he has called a ‘hoax,’ was on his mind when he decided to fire Comey.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that according to a memo written by Comey, Trump had asked Comey to back off in the FBI’s probe of ex national security advisor Mike Flynn, whose own Russia connections are under investigation.

Flynn and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort have emerged as key figures in the sprawling FBI investigation, NBC News reported.

Although Republicans have provided considerable cover for Trump, there were early stirrings of more aggressive oversight on Wednesday.

House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, speaks during a press conference after a classified meeting of the committee in which they reviewed documents related to former national security adviser Michael Flynn in the Capitol on Tuesday, April 25, 2017

House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, speaks during a press conference after a classified meeting of the committee in which they reviewed documents related to former national security adviser Michael Flynn in the Capitol on Tuesday, April 25, 2017

House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, who has been criticized by committee Democrats for not taking an aggressive investigative stance toward the Trump administration, wrote the FBI on Tuesday seeking copies of ‘any and all documentation the fired FBI director James Comey kept of his communications with President Donald Trump.’

The Senate Intelligence Committee, which has its own investigation of alleged Russian election interference, also wants Comey to appear in closed and open session.

It asked acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe to hand over any notes Comey has of conversations between the White House and Justice Department officials about the Russia probe.

Still another panel, the Senate Judiciary Committee, is also seeking documents.

Panel chair Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa and ranking Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California wrote the Justice Department and the White House on Wednesday seeking documents.

Democrats, for the most part, greeted the development positively.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder, who worked under President Obama, called Mueller ‘Incorruptible.’

‘As long as his charter is appropriate defined and he is properly resourced, this is a good move.’

Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware sent out a bevvy of tweets praising Mueller.

‘Director Mueller helps restore confidence in the independence and integrity of the ongoing investigation into Russian interference,’ he wrote, calling the ex-FBI head a ‘strong choice.’

Some Democratic lawmakers, while praising the choice of Mueller, again pointed a finger at the Trump administration and demanded that the probe be given proper resources.

‘And now that the Justice Department has rightly turned the reins of the investigation over to an independent special prosecutor, it is critical that former Director Mueller is given the resources he needs to get to the bottom of Russia’s attack on our democracy, without any interference from the Trump administration,’ said Sen. Al Franken, a Democrat from Minnesota.

Republicans’ responses were more mixed.

Sen. Lamar Alexander praised Mueller’s ‘independence and integrity’ while working with both Presidents Bush and Obama.

‘Which are exactly the qualities needed to pursue the Russia investigation to its conclusion,’ Alexander said.

The Tennessee lawmaker also urged the Senate to continue its investigation and bring ex-FBI director Comey before Congress.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said nothing to Mueller’s character, but pledged the Senate’s probe would go on, and said appointing a special prosecutor ensures the FBI’s investigation ‘will continue.’

House Speaker Paul Ryan said, ‘My priority has been to ensure thorough and independent investigations are allowed to follow the facts wherever they may lead.’

 ‘That is what we’ve been doing here in the House,’ he continued. ‘The addition of Robert Mueller as special counsel is consistent with this goal, and I welcome his role at the Department of Justice.’

The House’s ‘important ongoing bipartisan investigation,’ Ryan also said, will continue.

MUELLER’S ROLE IN WASHINGTON’S MOST-TOLD STORY ABOUT JIM COMEY

During Mueller’s tenure at the top of the FBI, he was involved in one of the most memorable parts of his successor Comey’s biography.

As the story goes, Comey – whose firing last week by President Trump teed of the White House’s most recent troubles – received a call in 2004 informing him that President Bush’s White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and Chief of Staff Andrew Card were heading to the intensive care unit where Comey’s boss, John Ashcroft, the attorney general, lay ill.

Gonzales and Card wanted Ashcroft to sign off on a reauthorization of President Bush’s warrantless eavesdropping program, which the Republican president had signed off on in the aftermath of 9/11.

The Justice Department had just deemed the program illegal.

Comey, serving as the deputy attorney general, alerted Mueller and then rushed to Ashcroft’s hospital bed, barely beating Gonzales and Card, according to an account from the Washington Post.

Ashcroft, at that time, refused to sign.

The White House officials eventually stood down, when Bush relented, after both Mueller and Comey, along with Ashcroft, threatened to resign.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4516640/Justice-names-special-counsel-lead-Russia-probe.html#ixzz4hQEHIycy
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