WASHINGTON (AP) — Former FBI Director Robert Mueller was given sweeping power Wednesday to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, with a broad mandate that could encompass any questionable actions of President Donald Trump’s associates and possibly even the circumstances of last week’s abrupt firing of James Comey.
The Justice Department’s appointment of Mueller as a special counsel is an acknowledgment of growing public demands to place the politically charged inquiry into the hands of an outside investigator with bipartisan support. It follows weeks of questions about the Justice Department’s independence from the White House and comes two months after Attorney General Jeff Sessions had to recuse himself because of his own undisclosed Russian contacts during the campaign.
“I accept this responsibility and will discharge it to the best of my ability,” Mueller said in a statement.
In a statement released by the White House, Trump said: “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. I look forward to this matter concluding quickly.”
As special counsel, Mueller will direct an FBI counterintelligence investigation examining whether Russia coordinated with Trump campaign associates to influence the election in his behalf, and he will have authority to charge those involved in any crimes uncovered.
The mandate extends beyond any specific Trump-Russia connection to cover “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” That language suggests Mueller could also explore whether the firing of Comey — who publicly revealed the existence of the investigation to Congress in March — and a conversation Comey has said he had with the president weeks earlier represented efforts to obstruct or derail the FBI’s work.
In appointing Mueller, the Justice Department selected a seasoned law enforcement veteran who guided the …read more