“It is in the public interest for me to exercise my authorities and appoint a special counsel to assume responsibility for this matter. My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted. I have made no such determination.”
Rod J. Rosenstein — Deputy Attorney General
On May 17 2017, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — acting as Attorney General in Jeff Sessions’ place because he recused himself from the Russia inquiry– appointed Mueller to serve as special counsel for the United States Department of Justice. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY
In this capacity, Mueller will oversee the investigation into the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections, as well as other matters that “may arise directly from the investigation.”
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UPDATE — Ethics experts clear Mueller as the special counsel.
The Trump administration said Tuesday that ethics experts had decided that Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel overseeing the federal investigation into possible Russian interference in the election, could carry out the inquiry even though his former law firm represents some of Mr. Trump’s family members and his former campaign chairman.
The firm, WilmerHale, represents Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, and Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. While Mr. Mueller did not personally represent them, Reuters reported that the White House was using conflict-of-interest rules to undermine the investigation. [NYT]
Mueller is the first special prosecutor brought in by the Justice Department since December 2003 when Patrick fitzerald was appointed by Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey — acting as Attorney General in Ashcroft’s place — to investigate the Valerie Plame case. On October 28, 2005, Fitzgerald brought an indictment for 5 counts of false statements, perjury, and obstruction of justice against Lewis “Scooter” Libby, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff.
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The appointment followed a series of events which included President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey and allegations “that the president asked Mr. Comey to drop the bureau’s investigation into his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn.”
“As a special counsel, Mr. Mueller can choose whether to consult with or inform the Justice Department about his investigation. He is authorized to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump,” according to Mr. Rosenstein’s order naming him to the post, as well as other matters that “may arise directly from the investigation.” He is empowered to press criminal charges, and he can request additional resources subject to the review of an assistant attorney general.” [NYT]
Last night, legal and law enforcement veterans rushed online to praise Mueller. David Kris, a former assistant attorney general for national security, wrote on the Lawfare blog:
“Mueller is experienced, knowledgeable, capable. He is utterly incorruptible. He cannot be intimidated. At this stage in his career, he has nothing to prove, no reputation to burnish, no axe to grind.”
Mueller rose to public prominence along with former FBI director James Comey in 2004, when he and Comey threatened to resign if the Bush administration revived the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance program without making changes to it. At the time, Mueller was FBI Director and Comey was the Deputy Attorney General.
Most recently, Mueller was a partner at the law firm WilmerHale, which represents a number of Trump associates including first daughter Ivanka trump, son-in-law Jared Kushner, and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.
Mueller has resigned from his position at the firm immediately in order to avoid any conflicts of interest. Robert Novick — co-managing partner at WilmerHale — told Lawfare that Mueller “had nothing to do with these representations” and was not privy to any information related to Ivanka Trump, Kushner, or Manafort.
Former FBI Director Robert Mueller Named Special Counsel
Former FBI Director Robert Mueller Named Special Counsel for Russia Probe – [UPDATE]