The Justice Department decision to name former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel for the investigation into possible collusion between members of the Trump administration and Russia, as well as the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, was widely applauded by lawmakers and officials with a few exceptions, most notably Donald Trump, who tweeted his displeasure Thursday after being kept in the dark until less than an hour before the Justice Department announcement.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made the appointment after a tumultuous week that was marked not only by the president dismissing Comey, but also by reports that Comey had written detailed memos during his tenure, one of which recounted Trump asking the former FBI director to drop the investigation of former National Security Adviser Gen. Michael Flynn, who Trump had to fire in February after revelations that he had likely been compromised by Russian operatives.
Rosenstein's order charged Mueller, a well-respected investigator, whose tenure at the FBI spanned 12 years and two presidential administrations, with investigating “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.”
Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned the Trump administration in late January that Flynn had engaged in inappropriate interactions with Russian government affiliates. Yates was fired by the president days later, ostensibly for telling Justice prosecutors not to enforce Trump's immigration ban because it was unconstitutional.
“It is in the public interest for me to exercise my authorities and appoint a special counsel to assume responsibility for this matter,” Rosenstein said in a statement.
Trump issued a statement, claiming that “a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know — there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity. 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.”
But in a series of tweets Thursday, the president called the investigation “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!” And asked why his predecessor wasn't under investigation. “With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special counsel appointed!” he posted.
Lawmakers applauded Mueller's appointment with Rep. Kathleen Rice, tweeting that “Appointing a #SpecialCounsel is a positive & necessary step. Requested this from DOJ last week w/ @tedlieu & @StaceyPlaskett.”
And Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., tweeted, “Thank you Deputy AG Rosenstein for following 28 CFR 600 & appointing #SpecialCounsel. Your integrity came through today.” But Lieu chided Republicans in Congress who refused or hesitated to call for a special counsel, tweeting “Thanks #GOP for getting Justice Department to appoint special prosecutor. Oh wait, you objected. It was the Dems & #Resistance that did this.”