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17 May, 2017 23:00

Ex-FBI head Mueller appointed special counsel to investigate alleged Russian meddling in US election

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been appointed special counsel by the US Department of Justice to lead the investigation into purported Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made the announcement Wednesday afternoon. As Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself after coming under fire for not disclosing to the US Senate a meeting he had with Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak as well as due to his connection to the Trump campaign, Rosenstein was in the position to grant what Democrats have long demanded, that an independent special counsel take the lead in the criminal investigation.

Mueller, a former DOJ prosecutor and FBI director, got the nod.

“In my capacity as acting Attorney General, I determined that it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authority and appoint a Special Counsel to assume responsibility for this matter,” Rosenstein said in a DOJ statement. “My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted. I have made no such determination. What I have determined is that based upon the unique circumstances, the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command.”

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Rosenstein said he made the decision to appoint special counsel to “oversee the previously-confirmed FBI investigation of Russian government efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election and related matters,” so that “the American people [would] have full confidence in the outcome.”

“Special Counsel Mueller has agreed to resign from his private law firm in order to avoid any conflicts of interest with firm clients or attorneys,” Rosenstein added.

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Mueller served for 12 years as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation until he was replaced in 2013 by James Comey, who was fired on May 9. Mueller served the longest term as FBI director since J. Edgar Hoover’s nearly 37 years. With just three years in post, Comey is the shortest-serving of all FBI directors.