Robert S. Mueller, a former prosecutor who served as the FBI director from 2001 to 2013, has been named as special counsel to investigate the influence of Russia in the 2016 presidential election.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made the appointment on Wednesday (May 17) evening.
The proclamation naming Mueller gives him authority to investigate any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump and any matters arising from the investigation.
“If the Special Counsel believes it is necessary and appropriate, the Special Counsel is authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters,” the statement reads.
The intelligence committees of both chambers in Congress have been investigating potential relationships and influence between Russia, the Trump campaign, and possibly other connections.
“I think it’s a positive move by the acting attorney general,” said Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Last week, President Donald Trump fired then-FBI director James Comey stating originally that confidence in the bureau’s work had eroded. Comey said in a public hearing last month that he was investigating Trump’s ties to Russia. A day after the firing Trump told NBC News that he fired Comey because of the Russian investigation. On Tuesday, citing anonymous sources, The New York Times reported that in a confidential memo, Comey said Trump asked him to end an investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn at a meeting in February.
As special counsel, Mueller will have sweeping authority to conduct an investigation and to potentially bring criminal charges if wrongdoing is discovered. He can use existing Department of Justice people and resources or hire outside staff. The statute governing a special counsel specifies that the person must be from outside the government. Mueller has been in private practice with a D.C. law firm, but has subsequently resigned. He will also have to get permission from Rosenstein to expand the investigation beyond its current scope if evidence suggests it should be broadened.
President Trump reacted to the news in a White House statement on Wednesday evening. He 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. In the meantime, I will never stop fighting for the people and the issues that matter most to the future of our country.”
Talk Business & Politics has requested comment from Arkansas’ four Congressmen and two Senators. U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, while U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, sits on the House Intelligence Committee.
“As a former FBI Director of 13 years with a strong track record of independence, Robert Mueller is fully equipped to perform a credible investigation,” said Crawford. “Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rosenstein has picked the right man for the job, and I believe that Mueller’s nonpartisan work will proceed quickly alongside thorough investigations by the bipartisan Intelligence Committees.”
U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, said, “Given the number and severity of the claims that have arisen – and the fact that these claims are coming from anonymous sources and the media, it’s important the American people now get the facts from an independent investigation. They deserve the truth. I have the utmost confidence in former director Mueller’s ability to lead an independent investigation and give the people what they deserve – the truth.”
A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, said the congressman would not issue a statement at this time. Westerman is slated to host a telephone town hall/Facebook Live event on Thursday evening and is likely to respond to a participant’s question in the live forum. Cotton’s office said it does not expect to comment at this time.
Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., commented, “Appointing Robert Mueller as special counsel in this matter is a good step toward restoring public confidence. The Senate Intelligence Committee is continuing its work as well and I have complete confidence in Chairman Burr and Ranking Member Warner’s abilities to conduct a thorough investigation.”
“I think Bob Mueller, who was announced yesterday by the Department of Justice as a special counsel to look into all things Trump-2016 Election-Russia-Flynn connected, Bob Mueller is a fine man with an excellent reputation with both Democrats and Republicans. If that’s the direction DOJ wants to go, I think he will do an excellent job,” U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, told KARNewsradio 920 on Thursday morning.