Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
Global Media | By Meredith Barber

Trump Russia inquiry: Former FBI boss to lead probe

The announcement, the latest in the shock-a-day Washington saga, was made by deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein a day ahead of Rosenstein's scheduled appearance Thursday afternoon before the full Senate. In this case, painting himself as the unfair target of an investigation that was widely applauded across the political spectrum may instead serve to highlight his isolation.

In a tweet President Donald Trump described the situation as "the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history".

The decision to move to an independent probe came a week after Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey, sparking a political firestorm as the agency was in the midst of an investigation into the Russian Federation matter.

He went on to speak about "illegal acts" that took place during Hillary Clinton's campaign and throughout the Obama administration, noting that there was "never a special council (sic) appointed". That the native New Yorker, a trained lawyer, is prepared to act independently if necessary and is not easily scared by political pressure is best evidenced by a climactic episode that curiously also involves James Comey.

After announcing Comey's firing, the White House publicly released a memo from Rosenstein saying Comey was sacked in large part because of his mishandling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server as secretary of state.

Russian Federation has denied USA intelligence agencies' conclusion that it interfered in the election campaign to try to tilt the vote in Trump's favour. Trump has long bristled at the notion that Russian Federation played any role in his November election victory, and has denied any collusion between his campaign and Moscow. When the White House overruled them, they threatened to resign until they received presidential assurances that the program would be overhauled.

These meetings come as the President is seething over the Justice Department's decision to appoint a special counsel.

"He knew that Comey was going to be removed prior to writing his memo", Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill told reporters after the briefing.

Mueller, a former Marine officer and federal prosecutor, was sworn in as the sixth director of the FBI on September 4, 2001 - just a week before the September 11 terrorist attacks.

President Trump is leaving Friday for his first foreign trip, to the Mideast and beyond, which aides hope can have the effect of refocusing a White House in disarray.

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.

Durbin said Trump's actions - including the decision to fire Comey and his "incessant" provocative posts on Twitter - have done more harm than any enemy, real or perceived, could.

Another Democratic senator, Dick Durbin, said he had confidence that Mueller, who is widely respected among USA lawmakers, will follow the facts where they lead. This recent development even led some Republicans to ask for a special prosecutor for the first time, as seen on Wednesday morning, when IL representative Adam Kinzinger told CNN, "It is time we look at the idea of an independent commission or special prosecutor".

A key issue Mueller may have to tackle is whether Trump has committed obstruction of justice, an offence that could be used in any effort in the Republican-led Congress to impeach him and remove him from office. The others were former Connecticut Sen. And I think it's a very, very negative thing.

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