Sheldon Whitehouse: Rod Rosenstein's memo could be part of criminal investigation

Donald Trump vs James Comey

Donald Trump vs James Comey

"I welcome a special counsel to conduct a thorough investigation into the president's connections with Russian Federation and possible collusion on the 2016 election".

"This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!" said Trump on his Twitter account.

His reaction differed from Wednesday when he was quoted in a White House statement as saying: "I look forward to this matter concluding quickly".

Rosenstein's decision to appoint former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel has been well-received by senators, though Graham said "there are a lot of people in that room who were shocked that when a special counsel has been appointed that Congress has limitations on what we can do".

Rosenstein said the Mueller appointment was "necessary in order for the American people to have full confidence in the outcome". Langevin said reports that President Donald Trump tried to stop an investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, a Rhode Island native, was proof of the administration's inability to oversee a "fair and impartial investigation".

President Trump added that there was never a special counsel appointed for illegal acts that took place during Hillary Clinton's campaign or the Obama Administration.

He later reposted the same tweet, after correcting his misspelling of the word "counsel".

Earlier in the day, Graham told reporters that committees would now see their access to witnesses and documents restricted, because potential witnesses involved in the FBI investigation could refuse to testify or provide information to avoid incriminating themselves. "No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly".

Washington's intelligence agencies believe Moscow tried to tip November's United States presidential election in favour of Mr Trump.

There was confusion during the day surrounding Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser who has emerged as a central figure because of his own ties to Russian Federation, which led to his dismissal early on in the Trump administration.

Mr Comey succeeded him, having been appointed by Mr Obama.

Despite initially opposing appointment of an independent counsel, House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday that the development "helps assure people and the Justice Department that they're going to go do their jobs independently and thoroughly, which is what we've called for all along".

Mr Mueller, who will have wide-ranging powers, said simply: "I accept this responsibility and will discharge it to the best of my ability". It later emerged that Comey made note of Trump's request in a memo that was saved.

The No. 2 Senate Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, said he is supportive of investigations in Congress but expressed concern about the "proliferation" of hearings. That's less likely with a special counsel under current law than it was under the old independent-counsel statute, and it's a trap that Mueller seems unlikely to fall into.

The circumstances are not just unusual, they are unprecedented. And it was good for Donald Trump.

The overall consensus among Senate members is that the Russian Federation investigation is getting more serious. Robert Mueller has a sterling reputation in Washington, DC.

Initially it was Rosenstein's memo - critical of Comey's handling of the Hillary Clinton email scandal a year ago - that was put forward as the justification for the dismissal.

Durbin and other Democrats complained, however, that Rosenstein refused to answer many of their questions and did so by citing the seriousness of the investigation. "But any investigation must include possible obstruction of justice by POTUS". But the longer-term consequences will be to continue the political fighting, perhaps even prolong it, and to expand the scope of the controversies under investigation.

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