Explaining the mechanics of the Trump-Russia special counsel

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Rosenstein, the No. 2 Justice Department official, named Mueller amid mounting pressure in Congress for an independent investigation beyond existing FBI and congressional probes into the Russian Federation issue.Mueller's appointment was not expected to affect the FBI or congressional investigations.Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said Comey should still appear before congressional committees that have invited him to testify.A key issue Mueller may have to tackle is whether Trump has committed obstruction of justice, an offense that could be used in any effort in Congress to impeach him and remove him from office.

"With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special counsel appointed!" he said, without providing evidence for those claims. "How will lawmakers respond to the president's clear intent to influence this Russian Federation investigation, even after the appointment of a special counsel?"

This is unusual, given that a special prosecutor is typically reserved for when a crime has been alleged, and not only has no serious penal-law violation been credibly alleged against Donald Trump or any of his associates, but, as we have repeatedly noted, the FBI was engaged in a counterintelligence, not a criminal, investigation as it relates to Russian Federation.

"This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!" he tweeted Thursday morning, following Mueller's appointment.

The chairman of the Senate intelligence committee says his panel has not received a response from Michael Flynn's lawyer - correcting his earlier statement that Flynn would not comply with a subpoena.

"He appointed Mueller because he was cognizant enough to understand whether or not he thought he could be fair in the investigation was irrelevant", said Steven Silverman, a Baltimore attorney who has known Rosenstein for years. It immediately escalated the legal stakes - and the potential political damage - for a president who has tried to dismiss the matter as partisan witch hunt and a "hoax".

Rosenstein, who was appointed US attorney by President George W. Bush and held the job for the entire Obama administration, didn't immediately embrace the idea of a special counsel while facing persistent questions from Democratic senators at his confirmation hearing.

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"This was a very good first step. Mr. Rosenstein has done the right thing", Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of NY said on the Senate floor. "I now have significantly greater confidence that the investigation will follow the facts wherever they lead". "I look forward to this matter concluding quickly".

A special counsel has the powers of a United States attorney, according to the BBC. He gave no examples.

Rosenstein himself in the last week has come under intense criticism as the author of a memo that chastised Comey for his handling of the Hillary Clinton email case, which the White House initially cited as justification for the firing.

The selection of Mueller, a taciturn former federal prosecutor who led the FBI through the September 11 attacks, received bipartisan embrace.

He was appointed under a rarely used statute that requires him to report the findings of his investigation to Rosenstein in a confidential report. Rosenstein said the Mueller appointment was "necessary in order for the American people to have full confidence in the outcome". Principal Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders pointed to Rosenstein's memo as the reason for Trump's firing, saying that Comey had committed "atrocities" in overseeing the FBI's investigation into Clinton.

The Senate intelligence committee also asked acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe to turn over any notes Comey might have made regarding discussions he had with White House or Justice Department officials about Russia's efforts to influence the election.

Trump is leaving town Friday on his first foreign trip, and aides have been hopeful the journey will be a chance for the administration to get back on track after weeks of chaos and distractions.

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