Special counsel pick could boost faith in Justice Dept.

Elias Hubbard
May 19, 2017

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".

WASHINGTON (AP) - Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein knew President Donald Trump was going to fire FBI Director James Comey before he wrote a memo justifying the ouster of the law enforcement chief, Democratic senators said Thursday.

Rosenstein's decision to notify the White House only after making the pick goes a long way towards establishing the independence of both Mueller and the Justice Department.

That includes any links between Trump campaign associates and Russian Federation, as well as "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation", according to the letter appointing him. "The Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation, which is well underway, is focusing on the counter-intelligence aspects, which are crucial to this case". Several of them, along with some Republicans, said on Wednesday that the news of a special counsel probe should not slow down Congress' work - and Republican leaders pledged that it would not.

"I believe it hurts our country terribly, because it shows we're a divided, mixed-up, not-unified country", Trump said in an on-the-record statement.

Swecker says Comey made several missteps during his tenure as Federal Bureau of Investigation director. He, mistakenly, in the view of many, departed from DOJ guidelines in handling the Hillary Clinton email investigation. She also called on the Justice Department to let Mr Mueller review Mr Trump's "attempt to intervene" on behalf of former national security adviser Michael Flynn. However, a special counsel has less autonomy than a special prosecutor, a role phased out in 1999.

This effort should in no way be allowed to impede the ability of the Senate Intelligence Committee to conduct and conclude its investigation into the same subject. But when I made that decision, I actually thought that it would be a bipartisan decision.

Also Thursday afternoon, Rosenstein went to Capitol Hill and told the full Senate that the White House's initial account of Comey's firing was not accurate.

A third senator, Republican Bill Cassidy, said Rosenstein "indicated what Donald Trump has indicated, that Mr. Trump was leaning in that direction" before Rosenstein presented his memo. It immediately escalated the legal stakes - and the potential political damage - for a president who has tried to dismiss the matter as partisan witch hunt and a "hoax".

In this September 4, 2013, file photo, then-incoming FBI Director James Comey talks with outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller before Comey was officially sworn in at the Justice Department in Washington.

As for Mueller, he's been promised the resources he needs to follow leads in the investigation and that includes the resources of the FBI. He said he doubted any of his colleagues would try to "delay or impede or impair this investigation in any way".

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence committee, said he "made a very strong comment" to Rosenstein Thursday about the committee and the Justice Department having "different purposes and different standards".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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