WASHINGTON (CBSDetroit/CBSNewYork/CBS News) — Former FBI Robert Mueller has been appointed to serve as special counsel to oversee the previously confirmed investigation of Russian efforts to influential the 2016 presidential election and related matters.
Mueller will assume all the powers of a federal prosecutor in his role as special counsel — including subpoena authority.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the appointment on Wednesday.
“In my capacity as acting Attorney General, I determined that it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authority and appoint a Special Counsel to assume responsibility for this matter,” Rosenstein said in a news release. “My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted. I have made no such determination. What I have determined is 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.”
Rosenstein said while the Department of Justice conducts thousands of criminal investigations without regard for partisanship each year, a special counsel is necessary for the Russia probe.
“Our nation is grounded on the rule of law, and the public must be assured that government officials administer the law fairly,” Mueller said in the release. “Special Counsel Mueller will have all appropriate resources to conduct a thorough and complete investigation, and I am confident that he will follow the facts, apply the law and reach a just result.”
Mueller has agreed to resign from his private law firm to avoid any conflicts of interests.
In a White House statement, President Donald Trump did not comment directly on the selection of Mueller, but said an investigation would prove there was no collusion with Russia or any country.
“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,” Trump said in the statement. “In the meantime, I will never stop fighting for the people and the issues that matter most to the future of our country.”
U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) chairs the House Oversight Committee. He applauded the selection of Mueller.
“Director Mueller — impeccable credentials,” Chaffetz said. “I think will provide a great deal of comfort on both sides of the aisle. It’s a real professional. People will have great trust in him.”
Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) and former running mate of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted “Good move. Now let’s get some answers.”