The US Justice Department on Wednesday appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee a probe into Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and possible collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign team and Moscow.
The move followed a week of turmoil for the White House amid rising demands for an independent investigation of alleged Russian efforts to sway the outcome of November’s presidential election in favor of Trump and against Democrat Hillary Clinton, Reuters reports.
Pressure has been building on Trump since his firing last week of James Comey, chief of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who had been leading a federal probe into the matter.
US intelligence agencies said earlier this year that Russia interfered in the American election. Moscow has dismissed the allegations, and the Trump team has denied any collusion with Russia.
“My decision (to appoint a special counsel) is not the finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted. I have made no such determination,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in a statement Wednesday, according to Reuters.
“I determined that a special counsel is necessary in order for the American people to have full confidence in the outcome,” he said.
Democrats in Congress and some of Trump’s fellow Republicans had called for an independent probe.
Representative Elijah Cummings, senior Democrat on the House of Representatives oversight committee, applauded Rosenstein’s action.
“I think he made a solid choice in Mr. Mueller, and I commend him for putting our country and justice system first,” he said.
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