(RNN) – The Justice Department has named former FBI director Robert Mueller to serve as special counsel over the investigation into possible Russian interference in the U.S. election.
"I determined that it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authority and appoint a special counsel to assume responsibility for this matter," Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in a statement. "My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted."
Rosenstein said that based on "unique circumstances, the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command."
Appointment of Special Counsel https://t.co/O3i7TWVDdO— Justice Department (@TheJusticeDept) May 17, 2017
The White House issued a statement from the president, saying "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."
Mueller was nominated as FBI director by President George W. Bush in 2001. He preceded the recently ousted FBI director James Comey, and served two years beyond his 10-year term in order to help Obama's national security team in a period of transition.
"I am confident that [Mueller] will follow the facts, apply the law and reach a just result,” Rosenstein said.
In a brief statement, Mueller said he accepts the responsibility and pledged to "discharge it to the best of my ability."
The appointment was praised by both Republicans and Democrats.
"I have significantly greater confidence that the investigation will follow the facts wherever they lead," Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, tweeted.
Sen. Jason Chaffetz, R-UT, tweeted Mueller had "impeccable credentials. Should be widely accepted."
The appointment comes as the Trump administration reels under the fallout from the firing of Comey.
According to the New York Times, memos by Comey suggest President Donald Trump asked him to end an FBI investigation into Michael Flynn.
Flynn, the former national security adviser, resigned after a few weeks on the job for reportedly misleading Vice President Mike Pence and others in the White House about conversations he had with the Russian ambassador.
"I hope you can let this go," Trump said to Comey, according to the memo.
The White House has called the memo "not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey" and said it did not ask him to end the investigation.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has asked Comey to testify before them about his termination. A date has not been set for the hearing.
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