Explaining the mechanics of the Trump-Russia special counsel

Elias Hubbard
May 20, 2017

Many Democrats earlier had sharply criticized Rosenstein, who was confirmed as deputy attorney general less than a month ago, for writing a memo the Trump White House initially used to justify Comey's firing.

But the announcement apparently took the White House by surprise, with Mr Trump only being informed of it after the deputy attorney general had signed the order.

They included Trump's firing of FBI Director James 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 the Russian foreign minister.

The appointment of the special counsel indicates other believe that's still open to question.

Rosenstein, who was appointed U.S. Attorney by President George W. Bush and held the job for the entire Obama administration, didn't immediately embrace the idea of a special counsel.

Also via Twitter, Trump accused former president Barack Obama and his 2016 rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton, of unspecified "illegal acts".

"This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!" he proclaimed in a tweet posted shortly before 8 a.m.

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

USA stocks rose as upbeat economic data emboldened investors to return to the market, a day after Wall Street saw the biggest selloff in eight months on worries the political turmoil could undermine Trump initiatives such as tax cuts that investors see as favoring economic growth.

Republicans have largely stood behind Trump in the first months of his presidency as the FBI and congressional investigations into Russia's election meddling intensified.

The appointment of Mueller as special counsel has drawn generally favorable comments from Democrats and from some Republicans as well. And House and Senate investigators had invited Comey back to Congress to explain what happened - although Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz declared on Twitter that he had trouble finding Comey to invite him to testify to the oversight committee he chairs.

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, center, talks to reporters outside federal court in Washington after the jury reached its verdict in the perjury trial of former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby in this March 6, 2007 file photo.

The revelation by Rosenstein "means that the letter that the president sent us is not accurate", Murphy said, referring to Trump's statement attributing the firing to Rosenstein's memo.

One new development from Friday's briefing: Rosenstein said news reports that Comey asked for and was denied more resources for the bureau's Russian Federation probe were not true.

Charlie Dent, a Republican in the House of Representatives, said there was no question the Russians meddled in the election.

Trump fired Flynn on February 14 for misleading Vice President Mike Pence about the extent of his conversations previous year with Russia's ambassador.

Burr, chairman of the Senate panel, said of Flynn and his refusal to comply, "We'll figure out on Gen. Flynn what the next step, if any, is".

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats met in private Wednesday to brainstorm how they were going to grill Rosenstein - including pressing him to name a special prosecutor.

Washington's intelligence agencies believe Moscow tried to tip November's U.S. presidential election in favour of Trump. Trump has long bristled at the notion that Russian Federation played any role in his November election victory. Mueller's appointment enjoys political protections that are quite strong and have already proven themselves in this matter.

Rosenstein was due to brief USA senators later on Thursday.

Rosenstein was originally invited by the two Senate leaders, Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Democrat Chuck Schumer of NY, to explain Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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