Monday, April 23, 2018
Politics

Justice Dept. names Robert Mueller special counsel for Russia inquiry

WASHINGTON — Former FBI director Robert Mueller was given sweeping power Wednesday to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, with a broad mandate that could encompass any questionable actions of President Donald Trump's associates and possibly even the circumstances of last week's abrupt firing of James Comey.

The Justice Department's appointment of Mueller as a special counsel is an acknowledgment of growing public demands to place the politically charged inquiry into the hands of an outside investigator with bipartisan respect. It follows weeks of questions about the Justice Department's independence from the White House and comes two months after Attorney General Jeff Sessions had to recuse himself because of his own undisclosed Russian contacts during the campaign.

"I accept this responsibility and will discharge it to the best of my ability," Mueller said in a statement.

In a statement released by the White House, Trump said: "As I have stated many times, 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."

As special counsel, Mueller will direct an FBI counterintelligence investigation examining whether Russia coordinated with Trump campaign associates to influence the election in his behalf. He is entitled to a budget, can request new or additional staff and will have the same authority as high-ranking Justice Department lawyers, including the ability to prosecute any crimes he uncovers.

His mandate extends beyond any specific Trump-Russia connection to cover "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation." That language suggests Mueller could also explore whether the firing of Comey — who publicly revealed investigation's existence to Congress in March — and a conversation Comey has said he had with the president weeks earlier represented efforts to obstruct or derail the FBI's work.

In appointing Mueller, the Justice Department selected a seasoned law enforcement veteran who guided the FBI through the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks and led its terror-fighting efforts over the next decade. A former federal prosecutor who served under presidential administrations of both parties and became director days before the attacks, Mueller was so valued that President Barack Obama asked him to stay on two years longer than his 10-year term.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Judiciary Committee Democrat, said there was "no better person who could be asked to perform this function." And Sen. Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican who chairs the Senate intelligence committee, called the appointment a "good decision."

"By having somebody like Bob Mueller head whatever investigation assures the American people that there's no undue influence, be it here, be it at the other end of Independence Avenue or within the Justice Department or FBI," said Burr, whose committee is conducting its own investigation.

In a statement, Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said, "Bob Mueller has the experience to conduct a thorough investigation. Now, the administration must provide him the resources and independent authority he needs to follow the facts wherever they lead."

"For the sake of the country, all parties must fully cooperate with his efforts," Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said of Mueller in a statement.

The White House counsel was notified after the special counsel order was signed and soon before it was publicly announced. A senior administration official described Trump's reaction to Mueller's appointment as "measured." The official told the Associated Press that there was widespread agreement among staff that the appointment of Mueller provides Trump and his aides with the opportunity to "commit ourselves to doubling down on the agenda."

The appointment seemed meant to quell mounting questions about the Justice Department's ability to independently oversee the investigation.

Last week, a memo drafted by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was held up by the White House as justification for the firing of Comey, who had been leading the investigation. Then came Tuesday's revelation that Comey had written in a memo that Trump, in a February meeting, had asked him to end an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The White House denied that account.

Rosenstein, who at his confirmation hearing would not commit to a special counsel appointment and who inherited the inquiry following Sessions' recusal, seemed to acknowledge the public outcry by calling Mueller's selection "necessary in order for the American people to have full confidence in the outcome."

The public interest, he said, "requires me to place this investigation into the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command."

The Justice Department said Mueller has resigned from his job at a private law firm, WilmerHale, to take the job.

Special counsels are appointed to avoid potential conflicts of interest in Justice Department investigations.

In the job, Mueller will have all the same powers as a U.S. attorney, though he will still ultimately report to Rosenstein. Still, he is not subject to the day-to-day supervision of the Justice Department.

Times Washington bureau chief Alex Leary contributed to this report.

Comments
Having Cuba in the name of your company can be a financial risk and there is no solution

Having Cuba in the name of your company can be a financial risk and there is no solution

With the third largest Cuban American population, Cuba’s culture is celebrated throughout the Tampa Bay area and in a diversity of ways.Flags hang in homes, fashion is worn, music performed, food served.But be wary of honoring that heritage by puttin...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Trump says he doesn’t think personal lawyer will ‘flip’

Trump says he doesn’t think personal lawyer will ‘flip’

WEST PALM BEACH — President Donald Trump said Saturday that he doesn’t expect Michael Cohen, his longtime personal lawyer and fixer, to "flip" as the government investigates Cohen’s business dealings. Trump, in a series of tweets fired from Florida o...
Published: 04/21/18

Vive la France: Trump hosts glitzy White House state dinner

WASHINGTON — Now it’s President Donald Trump’s turn to pull off the ultimate charm offensive. Wined and dined on multiple state visits during his tour of Asia last year, Trump is paying it forward and celebrating nearly 250 years of U.S.-French relat...
Published: 04/21/18
Romano: Okay, now who sounds like a hysterical teen talking about guns?

Romano: Okay, now who sounds like a hysterical teen talking about guns?

The writer of the letter sounds hysterical. Perhaps a little desperate. And maybe that’s just who Marion Hammer is these days.Most of the world knows her as the take-no-prisoners maven of the National Rifle Association who directs Florida politicians...
Published: 04/21/18
Rick Scott’s term limits idea: Hugely popular and highly unrealistic

Rick Scott’s term limits idea: Hugely popular and highly unrealistic

WASHINGTON — Gov. Rick Scott’s first policy idea as a U.S. Senate candidate won’t happen and most of his fellow Republicans don’t support it.But it’s a surefire applause line at political rallies.Scott wants term limits for members of Congress: 12 ye...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Ex-FBI deputy director ‘disappointed’ in Comey comments

Ex-FBI deputy director ‘disappointed’ in Comey comments

WASHINGTON — Andrew McCabe, the former FBI deputy director, is "very upset and disappointed" by comments made by his former boss James Comey that contradict his account of a disclosure to the news media, McCabe’s lawyer said Friday. "Andy has at all ...
Published: 04/20/18
Carlton: Mayor’s race: plot twists, meteoric rises, candidate implosions. It’s what we do in Tampa.

Carlton: Mayor’s race: plot twists, meteoric rises, candidate implosions. It’s what we do in Tampa.

The one thing you can say for sure about electing a mayor in Tampa is you can’t really say anything for sure.Historical proof: A couple of elections ago, Harvard-educated hometown-boy-gone-to-Washington Frank Sanchez was going to be our next mayor, h...
Published: 04/20/18
Carlton: Kids, want to make them listen? Vote

Carlton: Kids, want to make them listen? Vote

Today across America, high school students are expected to walk out of class in their latest show of solidarity against gun violence and elected officials unwilling to do much about it. It marks a grim anniversary — 19 years since Columbine bra...
Published: 04/20/18
Castor ends speculation: She’s running to be Tampa’s next mayor

Castor ends speculation: She’s running to be Tampa’s next mayor

TAMPA — For months, Tampa political aficionados have speculated: Will she or won’t she?Does Jane Castor, the city’s first woman police chief and presumed heavyweight mayoral candidate, really want the job? Asked and answered. Castor filed paperwork T...
Published: 04/19/18
Everybody loses in a trade war, Canadian chamber CEO warns Tampa officials

Everybody loses in a trade war, Canadian chamber CEO warns Tampa officials

TAMPA — President Donald Trump has tweeted "trade wars are good, and easy to win."Don’t believe it, the president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce told Tampa business and political leaders on Wednesday."We share more with you than with anybody els...
Published: 04/19/18