Published: Sat, May 20, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Everything you need to know about the Russian Federation investigation's 'special counsel'

Everything you need to know about the Russian Federation investigation's 'special counsel'

The US Justice Department, in the face of rising pressure from Capitol Hill, named former Federal Bureau of Investigation chief Robert Mueller on Wednesday as special counsel to investigate alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US election and possible collusion between President Donald Trump's campaign and Moscow.

But what exactly is a "special counsel", and how will his investigation work?

In a written statement shortly after Mueller's appointment was announced, Trump said a thorough investigation will confirm "there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity". "And so maybe, from a political perspective, someone may perceive a warmth and hugginess deficit, but I don't think that's relevant at all to the rigor of an investigation, or to impartiality or to transparency where it matters".

The DOJ announcement came on the same day that House Democrats launched a discharge petition on legislation to create an independent, outside commission - similar to the panel that investigated the 9/11 attacks - to examine Russian meddling in the 2016 elections and the ties between Moscow and Trump's team. And he's urged not only his supporters, but also the FBI, to focus more on the leaks about the investigation that have deepened questions about possible Russian Federation connections. The law also allows the special counsel to investigate efforts to impede his own work.

Following a stint at a Boston law firm, Mueller moved to Washington, becoming chief of the Justice Department's criminal division in 1990, where he oversaw prosecutions of former Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega and the Pan Am Flight 103 attack.

Mr. Mueller ran the FBI from 2001 to 2013, reshaping the bureau to focus on counterterrorism after the September 11 attacks, which confronted him a week into the job and raised questions about whether the nation's premier law-enforcement body was equipped to protect the homeland.

Mueller left Wilmer Hale this week, but faces a Justice Department ethics requirement that could bar him for a year from investigating anyone represented by his former firm.

In a statement, Florida Democratic Sen.

"If we want to start popping up all kinds of different investigations everywhere, this is never going to get solved", said Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), who applauded Mueller's appointment. "Now, the administration must provide him the resources and independent authority he needs to follow the facts wherever they lead". The attorney general, though, must "give great weight" to the special counsel's views, and, if he intervenes, must notify the chairman and ranking members of the congressional judiciary committees with an explanation for his actions. A senior administration official described Trump's reaction to Mueller's appointment as "measured".

Flynn was told of the Pentagon's plan to use Syrian Kurdish forces to retake Raqqa by Susan Rice, former President Barack Obama's national security adviser, 10 days before President Trump's election, The Washington Post reported in early February.

The White House on Wednesday was conducting interviews of candidates to replace Comey as head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Rosenstein, who at his confirmation hearing would not commit to a special counsel appointment and who inherited the inquiry following Sessions' recusal, seemed to acknowledge the public outcry by calling Mueller's selection "necessary in order for the American people to have full confidence in the outcome". He said 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".

Q:What is a special counsel?

In the job, Mueller will have all the same powers as a USA attorney, though he will still ultimately report to Rosenstein. Still, he is not subject to the day-to-day supervision of the Justice Department.

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