UPDATED with White House statement: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Wednesday afternoon named former FBI Director Robert Mueller to oversee the Russia probe and possible connection between Trump campaign associates and Russia.
President Trump said this afternoon: “As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know: that 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.”
TV News outlets dove into the stunning turnaround, which comes on the heels of word that Trump had asked former FBI Director James Comey in February to jettison the bureau’s investigation into Trump’s then-NSA Michael Flynn.
“Considering the unique circumstances of this matter, I have determined that a special counsel is necessary in order for the American people to have full confidence in the outcome,” Rosenstein said in a statement. “Our nation is grounded on the rule of law and the public must be assured that government officials administer the law fairly.” He did not notify White House or Attorney General in advance, CNN reports.
Mueller, who is respected within the Bureau and both sides of the aisle, has resigned from his position at his law firm to devote himself full time.
The announcement is an about-face for Rosenstein, who had not felt the need to appoint a special counsel after Trump fired Comey last week. However, that determination had been made before press reports that Trump had invited Comey to dinner at the White House shortly after being sworn in, during which he asked Comey if he himself was under investigation, and the more recent headline that Comey, before being sacked by Trump, had documented in memos being asked by Trump to end the Flynn investigation, as well as other moments in which Trump’s interaction gave Comey pause.
Rosenstein made the decision because Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions had to recuse himself from any investigation related to the 2016 presidential race, including Russian interference. Sessions did so after The Washington Post reported that Sessions, who was involved in Trump’s campaign, twice met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign – a fact he failed to disclose to the Senate Judiciary Committee during his January confirmation hearing.
In its news release, the DOJ said Mueller will oversee the previously confirmed FBI investigation or Russian government efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election and related matters.