By: Joseph Tanfani, Noah Bierman and Brian Bennett Of L.A Times
The Justice Department on Wednesday named a special counsel, former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, to take over the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion between Russian agents and associates of President Trump.
The move heightened the legal and political stakes for the president and his young administration. It came after days of allegations against Trump raised new questions about whether administration officials could oversee an inquiry that has the president at its center.
“My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that prosecution is warranted,” Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein said in announcing the appointment. “I have made no such determination.”
But, he said, a special counsel is necessary in order for the “American people to have full confidence in the outcome” of the investigation.
“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 wrote.
The president, in a statement, reiterated his insistence that he is innocent of wrongdoing.
“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,” Trump said.
“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.”
Rosenstein, who is overseeing the Russia investigation because Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions recused himself, did not inform either the White House or Sessions about the decision until after he had signed the order appointing Mueller, according to a Justice Department spokesperson who spoke on condition of anonymity.