WASHINGTON — Former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III has been appointed independent special prosecutor to take over the Justice Department investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and any coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the decision after a week of rising pressure on the Justice Department to ensure the probe remains independent of the White House.
“My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that prosecution is warranted,” Rosenstein said. “I have made no such determination.”
But Rosenstein said that “based on the unique circumstances, the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command.”
He said a special counsel is necessary in order for the “American people to have full confidence in the outcome.”
Mueller will have the ability to hire a staff and request a budget from the Department of Justice. He will resign from his law firm, WilmerHale.
Rosenstein has been overseeing the investigation because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself after failing at his Senate confirmation hearing to disclose his meetings with Russia’s ambassador last year.
Mueller headed the FBI from 2001 to 2013, serving under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.