Ex-FBI director to lead Russian Federation probe

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In naming Robert Mueller, the United States deputy attorney general said it was in the public interest to pick an outsider.

Mueller was named as special counsel on Wednesday, one day after a report surfaced that Trump had requested ex-FBI Director James Comey end any investigations involving National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's contacts with Russian Federation. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, said, after leaving a closed-door briefing with Rosenstein for the full Senate on Capitol Hill. By several senators' accounts, he contradicted Trump's statements that Rosenstein's written criticism of FBI Director James Comey had been a factor in Comey's recent firing by the president. The memo harshly criticized Comey's handling of an investigation of Hillary Clinton's emails. "He learned of the president's decision to fire him and then he wrote his memo with his rationale", Durbin said.

Mr Trump later tweeted: "With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special councel (sic) appointed!".

In his first substantive comments about the appointment of a special counsel to probe Russian interference in the 2016 US elections, President Donald Trump denied that his campaign had been involved in any collusion with Moscow, as he declared that the probe "divides the country". Daria Roithmayr, constitutional law expert, professor and chair of law at USC spoke EXCLUSIVELY with HollywoodLife.com about what this investigation means and if it could lead to the end of President Trump's run in the White House.

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Capping days of political drama in Washington, the move came as pressure mounted in Congress for an independent probe into ties between Trump's campaign and Moscow, which U.S. intelligence chiefs say interfered to tilt the election in the Republican's favour.

Asked at a press conference in the White House if he had asked Mr Comey to "back off" on an investigation into Flynn, as reported by the New York Times and other media outlets earlier this week, Mr Trump replied: "No, no". The official said there was widespread agreement among staff that the appointment of Mueller provides Trump and his aides with the opportunity to "commit ourselves to doubling down on the agenda". Lindsey Graham, said he was convinced that Mueller's appointment would hinder Congress' probing. Painter says that the final decision as to whether Mueller can proceed with his appointment lies with ethics officials within the Justice Department, and that he himself, "would support them using that authority".

BENNETT: Well, we know from some reporting that Rosenstein wasn't happy about having to shoulder the blame for Comey's firing when the White House initially used his memo as a pretext for it.

As special counsel, Mueller is "authorised to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters", according to the Justice Department order Rosenstein signed.

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The entire Senate is preparing to be briefed behind closed doors by the man who appointed Mueller, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

The South Carolina Republican said he wasn't able to ask specifically if it was now a criminal probe "but the takeaway have is everything he said was that you need to treat this investigation as if it may a criminal investigation". But Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said Comey should still appear before congressional committees that have invited him to testify.

Mr Mueller's broad mandate gives him not only oversight of the Russian Federation investigation, but also over "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation" - which would surely include Mr Trump's firing last week of FBI director James Comey.

Blumenthal said, "The setting (for the Rosenstein briefing) is completely inadequate". Flynn, Trump's fired national security adviser, is a key figure in the Trump-Russia investigation.

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Reportedly, Trump was unaware that Rosenstein planned to make the appointment until the formal announcement.

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