WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee the probe of Russian meddling in the U.S. election, a move that left members of Congress stunned and President Trump vowing “no collusion” will be dug up.
Last night’s appointment came as FBI Director James B. Comey was asked to testify before the House Oversight Committee Wednesday in what could be the first of several appearances before House and Senate lawmakers.
Lawmakers are after more information about Comey’s encounters with Trump, including reports the president pressed him to drop the bureau’s investigation into ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn.
The news hit on a day when the Dow had its worst showing since last September, shedding 370 points. It also triggered talk of Republicans shelving tax reform until 2018 due to the political storm.
GOP U.S. Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan said if it turns out to be true that Trump pressured Comey to end his probe of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials during the election, it would warrant impeachment.
Meanwhile, some Democrats are toying with the idea of poll-testing the public’s views on impeachment, according to McClatchy News.
Trump’s firing of Comey last week sparked a cascade of events that have mired the White House in controversy, causing congressional Democrats to ratchet up their demands for an independent investigation into Russian interference, including Trump’s conversations with Comey and Trump’s decision to disclose highly classified information to Russian officials at the White House last week.
Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona said the controversy had reached “Watergate size and scale” during a Tuesday night GOP dinner. Last night, he tweeted that Mueller “is a great choice for special counsel — confident he’ll fully investigate all aspects of Russia’s interference in our election.”
But Trump is insisting that Mueller — who was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — won’t find anything.
“As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know — there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity,” the president said in a statement last night.
“I look forward to this matter concluding quickly. In the meantime, I will never stop fighting for the people and the issues that matter most to the future of our country.”
Mueller will be able to name anyone to his staff and subpoena records and bring criminal charges. And there is no expiration date for his authority.
Special counsel is a relatively recent term, replacing special prosecutors and independent counsels. Patrick Fitzgerald, the former U.S. attorney appointed to investigate the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame, was one. Ken Starr, a special prosecutor, probed former President Bill Clinton’s Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky scandals.