Special counsel abruptly named to probe Trump-Russia ties

President Donald Trump

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Wednesday's appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate potential collusion between Russian Federation and Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign drew a muted response from the White House and cautious approval from some Florida members of Congress.

In his earlier Twitter posts, Trump criticized the naming of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special counsel by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, an official he himself appointed.

"This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!" he follows up in a subsequent tweet.

The President's tweets appear to signal a policy of resistance to Mueller's investigation, that will now likely cast a shadow over the beleaguered White House for months if not years to come. But his decision to appoint Mueller, he stressed, "is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted".

The President's adoption of the role of a victim has been a potent political weapon before and he has frequently used it to position himself against the Washington establishment, including the media which he uses as a foil in the absence of an easily identifiable political enemy, like Hillary Clinton. In a brazen warning to Comey, Trump suggested he may have tapes of their conversations. It may also be seen as an attempt to discredit the inquiry before it starts or to prejudge its results.

Yet the appointment increasingly seemed the only viable option, particularly following this week's revelation that Comey took notes on a February meeting with Trump in which he said the president had asked him to shut down an investigation into Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser.

The Russia matter has consumed Washington and overshadowed Republican legislative priorities including a planned healthcare overhaul and sweeping tax cuts, something the party had hoped to make rapid progress on given its control of the White House and both chambers of Congress.

Despite the appointment, at least three congressional committees are continuing their investigations, leading to some turf warfare and sniping as the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee both sought to lay claim to testimony from Comey, while the House Oversight Committee also hoped to hear from the former director.

Donald Trump  Twittter
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Trump's terse denial followed reports by Reuters and other media about a memo written by Comey alleging that Trump made the request to close down the investigation into Michael Flynn and Russian Federation in February.

"No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly", he said. Friends and former colleagues say it's been tough to see him in such a hard spot, especially when they consider him upright, impartial and an unlikely political pawn.

Senate Democrats demanded that Rosenstein appoint a special prosecutor, which was accomplished with Mueller's appointment.

Mueller, a former federal prosecutor at the Justice Department, was confirmed as FBI director days before the September 11, 2001, attacks that would ultimately shape his tenure. Mr Comey is said to have declined, and only offered his "honesty".

Senators said that Rosenstein steered clear of specifics while making clear that Mueller has wide latitude to pursue the investigation wherever it leads, including potentially criminal charges. "You've got the talking heads pontificating about someone I know well, when they don't know him at all and they don't have all the facts". He is required to tell Congress when the probe concludes, but publicly revealing anything beyond that is up to Rosenstein's discretion. Frank Keating and Richard McFeely, a former top Federal Bureau of Investigation official.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speculated Trump was probably happy to get out of town - "and a lot of us are glad he's leaving for a few days".

Separately, McClatchy News Service reported Wednesday that before Trump took office, Flynn had blocked an Obama administration military plan, opposed by Turkey, against the Islamic State group.

The plan was eventually approved by the Trump administration, but not until after Flynn had been fired.

Russian foreign minister mocks USA media over reports of Trump intelligence gaffe
On May 10, Trump fired Comey and said in several subsequent interviews that he had made a decision to remove him months ago. Mueller will fill a role independent of the normal channels of authority at the country's Department of Justice.


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