Senate

Special counsel appointment gets bipartisan praise

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.
 
{mosads}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. 
 
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) told CNN, “I think it’s a positive move by the acting attorney general.” 
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), another member of the committee, called Mueller an “excellent choice.” 

“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 Grassley (R-Iowa), who had criticized Comey’s handling of the probe into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’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 Ryan (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 McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement.  

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said he wanted to hear Rosenstein’s reasoning during Thursday’s meeting with senators.  
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 Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. 
 
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (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.” 
 
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, called Mueller a “solid choice.” 
“[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 Merkley (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. 
 
Democrats also warned that the White House and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should not try to curb Mueller in his new role. 
 
Blumenthal told CNN that “there needs to be some more clarity on the scope of his mandate.” 
  
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) appeared to echo that concern on Twitter.
Tags Adam Schiff Bob Corker Charles Schumer Chris Coons Chris Murphy Chuck Grassley Dianne Feinstein Hillary Clinton Jeff Merkley Jeff Sessions Kirsten Gillibrand Mitch McConnell Paul Ryan Richard Blumenthal Richard Burr Susan Collins

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