Special counsel appointment gets bipartisan praise
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Lawmakers are quickly backing the decision to name former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special counsel for the probe into Russia's meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. 
 
The administration was under growing pressure to name a special counsel in the wake of President Trump's decision to fire James Comey, with Democrats increasingly demanding the move over the last week.
 
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A growing number of House Republicans have backed the issue amid allegations that Trump tried to quash a probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. 
 
Though most GOP senators had held off from backing a special counsel, a growing number are quickly endorsing the move as a path forward on investigating Russia's election interference.
 
Three GOP senators on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is conducting its own probe into the 2016 election, cast Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's decision as a step in the right direction. 
 

"He has sterling credentials and is above reproach. Because of his experience leading the FBI for more than a decade, Mr. Mueller has established relationships with FBI agents and will be able to move forward quickly. He is well respected on both sides of the aisle and will inspire public confidence in the investigation," Collins added in a statement. 

Collins was expected to ask Rosenstein about a special counsel during a closed-door briefing with senators scheduled for Thursday afternoon. 
 
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) called it "initially" positive, while Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who is not on the Intelligence Committee, said at a Washington Post Live event that Mueller "is a guy whose career is unimpeachable."
 
Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) told MSNBC that the decision was "a very positive development."
 
"It is evidence this administration is taking this Russia probe seriously, that this is going to be a probe that is independent," he said.
 
Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s walk-back fails to stem outrage on Putin meeting Senate GOP poised to break record on Trump's court picks This week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation MORE (R-Iowa), who had criticized Comey's handling of the probe into former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonState Dept: Russia’s allegations about American citizens ‘absolutely absurd’ Trump on possible sit-down with Mueller: 'I've always wanted to do an interview' Election Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas MORE's use of a private email server, also backed the move. 
 
"The FBI’s handling of recent politically charged investigations has eroded the public’s trust in its ability to be independent. I have a great deal of confidence Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and I respect his decision.  Mueller has a strong reputation for independence, and comes with the right credentials for this job," he said. 
 
Grassley, who oversees the Judiciary Committee, didn't address what would happen to his committee's probe of the 2016 election in the wake of the decision but added, "Congress will have a role to play in bringing transparency to the American people."
 
House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanWhy the rush to condemn a carbon tax? House votes to go to conference on farm bill House backs resolution expressing support for ICE MORE (R-Wis.) said his priority has been to "ensure thorough and independent investigations are allowed to follow the facts wherever they may lead. ... The addition of Robert Mueller as special counsel is consistent with this goal, and I welcome his role at the Department of Justice."
 
"The important ongoing bipartisan investigation in the House will also continue," he added.
 
Wednesday's announcement is the third announcement in as many days that has appeared to catch lawmakers by surprise. Democrats and some Republicans were expected to raise a special counsel with Rosenstein during Thursday's meeting.
 
Many congressional Republicans are remaining silent in the immediate wake of the news. Other GOP lawmakers also had more tempered comments. 

“The decision by the Deputy Attorney General to appoint former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special counsel confirms that the investigation into Russian intervention into our election will continue, as stated last week by Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will also continue its investigation into this matter," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate GOP breaks record on confirming Trump picks for key court Senate Democrats block resolution supporting ICE The Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s walk-back fails to stem outrage on Putin meeting MORE (R-Ky.) said in a statement.  

The quick reaction from lawmakers came amid silence from the White House. Rosenstein announced Wednesday that he was using his "capacity as acting Attorney General" to make the decision.
 
Democrats have clamored for months for the Justice Department to name a special counsel to oversee the investigation, which includes potential ties between Trump campaign officials and Moscow. 
 
Many Democratic lawmakers quickly praised the move to pick Mueller.  
 
"A special counsel is very much needed in this situation and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein has done the right thing. Former Director Mueller is exactly the right kind of individual for this job. I now have significantly greater confidence that the investigation will follow the facts wherever they lead," Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats slam Trump for considering Putin’s ’absurd’ request to question Americans Judge Kavanaugh confounds the left This week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation MORE (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. 
 
Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenate GOP breaks record on confirming Trump picks for key court Deal to fix family separations hits snag in the Senate Election Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas MORE (D-Calif.) added that "the appointment of Bob Mueller as special counsel for the Russia investigation is a good first step to get to the bottom of the many questions we have about Russian interference in our election and possible ties to the president." 
 
"[It's] a very solid and significant step," Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told CNN shortly after the announcement. "I think it sounds a resounding signal that the Department of Justice is going to be the Department of Justice." 
 
Many of Blumenthal's colleagues quickly weighed in Twitter. 
Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleySenate Democrats block resolution supporting ICE Senate Dems protest vote on controversial court pick Senate adds members to pro-NATO group MORE (D-Ore.) added that Rosenstein's decision is a "victory for Americans who believe in the integrity of the rule of law."
Despite the announcement, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she still wants an independent commission.
 
“A special prosecutor is the first step, but it cannot be the last. Director Mueller will still be in the chain of command under the Trump-appointed leadership of the Justice Department. ... A special prosecutor does not negate the need for vigorous Congressional investigations either," she said in a statement. 
 
 
Blumenthal told CNN that "there needs to be some more clarity on the scope of his mandate."