Mueller is authorized to investigate any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump with or without consulting the Justice Department [official website].
Two US officials said on Monday that Mr Trump had disclosed classified information about a planned Isil operation to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov when they met last week, plunging the White House into a fresh controversy just four months into Mr Trump's tenure.
In a pair of early morning tweets, the president raged against perceived hypocrisy regarding his former campaign rival and his White House predecessor, writing "With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special counsel appointed!".
"Because it shows we're a divided, mixed-up, not unified country", Trump said on the record, in what was otherwise an off-the-record lunch.
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".
How it reportedly happened: Then-national security advisor Susan Rice approached Flynn about having Trump sign off on the plan, which utilized Syrian Kurdish forces and was to be executed under Trump's administration.
- Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight Committee investigating Russian influence, in a Fox News interview in which he also praised Mueller's "impeccable credentials".
"The Department of Justice investigation is continuing with my full support and cooperation, and if they determine an independent counsel is called for, I would welcome that appointment", Reagan said.
Trump assembled his inner circle in the Oval Office - Vice President Mike Pence, chief of staff Reince Preibus, economic adviser Gary Cohn, senior strategist Steve Bannon, and others - and gave them a pep talk, dictating the statement that was soon released.
Rosenstein, who was already scheduled to brief senators Thursday, had come under fire from Democrats for drafting the memo that was initially said to be the precipitating factor for Comey's firing, though Trump later said he would have fired Comey either way. In December 2003, a special prosecutor was appointed to investigate who leaked the name of a Central Intelligence Agency operative. "I hope you can let this go", Trump said, according to multiple Comey associates.
Q. Could a special counsel investigate things beyond simply the Russian Federation connection?
Digging into the details of the Department of Justice press statement, investigative journalist Marcy Wheeler cautioned that the scope of Mueller's investigation "is totally inadequate".
After the September 11, 2001 attacks, he spent the next 12 years wrestling the agency into a battle-hardened terrorism-fighting force.
Another beneficiary of the move could be Rosenstein, who was criticized for doing the White House's bidding after a memo he wrote criticizing Comey's handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe past year emerged as a justification for the Federal Bureau of Investigation chief's dismissal. "The American people deserve answers", he said.
President Bush, vacationing in Crawford, Texas, was informed of the decision midday Tuesday and supports it, the White House said.
The White House declined to comment on whether officials there had known about Flynn's legal troubles before the inauguration.
The winners of such a shift could be congressional Republicans. Rosenstein became the head of the investigation when Sessions recused himself, as he too may be under investigation as part of the Trump campaign.
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