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President Trump calls special counsel for Russian investigation a 'witch hunt'
20 May 2017, 04:25 | Myron Mathis
Mueller led the FBI through 9/11 and subsequent events
Rod Rosenstein said he was not pres sured into writing a contro versial memo.
Rosenstein's announcement followed more than a week of chaos emanating from the White House, starting with Comey's firing last Tuesday and continuing through the news Monday that Trump divulged classified information to Russian officials and Tuesday's stunning report that Trump asked Comey in a private meeting to stop his investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Trump also contended that Comey "was very unpopular with most people" in Washington - Republicans and Democrats.
Comey - whom Trump fired May 9 - wrote a memo memorializing a discussion with the president about Flynn and the FBI's investigation, two sources close to the former FBI director who had seen the memo confirmed to NPR. Democratic senators were prepared to press Rosenstein in the closed-door session to appoint a special prosecutor and his decision instantly defused their complaints, leading to praise instead. "And hopefully, this can go quickly, because we have to show unity if we're going to do great things with respect to the rest of the world".
But Sen. Richard Blumenthal of CT, the only Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee who opposed Rosenstein's confirmation last month, said Rosenstein ought to make the same points he made to the senators in a public setting.
Asked whether he urged Comey to ease up on the Flynn investigation, Trump said at a news conference, "No, no", before ordering the media to move on to the "next question".
Graham also had some advice for Trump, who wrote on Twitter Thursday morning that the appointment of a special counsel amounted to a "witch hunt".
Shortly after Mueller's appointment was announced, the White House sent out a statement attributed to Trump that was a bit toned down from his Thursday tweets and remarks.
Republicans have largely stood behind Trump in the first months of his presidency as FBI and congressional investigations into Russia's election meddling intensified.
Mr Rosenstein said that though he was personally fond of Mr Comey, he thought it was "appropriate" to seek a new leader.
Trump later said he meant to fire Comey regardless of the Justice Department's advice, and that he had the FBI's probe into alleged Russian election interference in mind when he did so.
Mueller's broad mandate gives him not only oversight of the Russian Federation probe, but also over "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation". The new FBI director will face confirmation hearings, which will provide a fresh opportunity to maintain attention on the Russian Federation investigation.
Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz, chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, recently penned a letter to acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, requesting access to Comey's notes when Trump allegedly asked him to pull the plug on the inquiry over Flynn.
"If your implication is that the White House wants this, I think that's wrong", said Senate judiciary chair Chuck Grassley Wednesday night.
A very important question just got even more massively important now that the FBI's investigation has found its way into the White House. "Zero", Trump said during the press conference. Joe Lieberman was among his top candidates.
"I would be very discouraged if somehow this new special prosecutor would preclude Jim Comey from testifying in public before our committee", he said.
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Robert Mueller, who served as FBI chief under George W Bush, was appointed this week as special counsel for the investigation. A memo by fired FBI Director Comey alleged Trump even asked that the probe into Flynn be shut down.