Thursday, 16 August, 2018

Schumer Calls Appointment of Mueller a 'Great First Step'

Kenny Thornton | 19 May, 2017, 19:44

The meeting took on greater importance on Wednesday, when Rosenstein chose to appoint former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special counsel to oversee the Justice Department's investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential election, including coordination between Trump's campaign and the Russian government.

Lawmakers are also asking fired Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey to provide records of his conversations with President Trump.

In some of the longest exchanges with reporters during a week filled with explosive headlines, including news that Comey had penned a memo documenting the president asking him to stop investigating Flynn, Trump said he thought the decision to fire Comey would be bipartisan, said repeatedly there was "no collusion" between his campaign and Russian Federation, and attempted to spin it as a partisan distraction.

Rosenstein made the appointment since his boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, had long ago recused himself from anything to do with Russian Federation due to his role in Donald Trump's election campaign.

They included Trump's firing of Comey, reports that Trump had previously pressured Comey to end a probe of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and Trump discussing sensitive information on Islamic State with Russia's foreign minister. Despite the president's furious reaction, some fellow Republicans welcomed Mueller's appointment and expressed hopes it would restore some composure to a capital plunged in chaos.

"With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special counsel appointed!" Trump wrote in Twitter postings on Thursday morning.

"This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!".

Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar responded, "This is a truth hunt".

Trump later told news anchors at the White House that Mueller's appointment was a "very, very negative thing", adding, "I believe it hurts our country terribly, because it shows we're a divided, mixed-up, not-unified country".

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Mueller takes over for Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general.

Afterward, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told reporters that "everything he said was that you need to treat this investigation as if it may be a criminal investigation". The White House denies reports that President Donald Trump asked the former FBI Director James Comey to drop the investigation into his national security advisor.

Trump undercut that timeline in an interview last week, but in a news conference on Thursday, he said he relied on Rosenstein's recommendation to make his decision. Director Mueller will still be in the chain of command under the Trump-appointed leadership of the Justice Department.

"I would be very discouraged if somehow this new special prosecutor would preclude Jim Comey from testifying in public before our committee", he said.

A key issue Mueller may have to tackle is whether Trump has committed obstruction of justice, an offense that could be used in any effort in the Republican-led Congress to impeach him and remove him from office. Trump himself had already contradicted that explanation, telling interviewers earlier that he had already chose to dismiss Comey.

Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin echoed McCaskill, saying Rosenstein told lawmakers that he knew of Trump's intent the day before he wrote a document that the White House initially said was the main reason Comey was dismissed. "I now have significantly greater confidence that the investigation will follow the facts wherever they lead".

Asked point-blank if he'd done anything that might merit prosecution or even impeachment, Trump said no - and then added of the lingering allegations and questions: "I think it's totally ridiculous".

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.

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