The Justice Department of the United States Government has moved to appoint a special counsel in the alleged Russian influence affair . The Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, signed the order below. The Attorney General recused himself given his involvement in the Trump Campaign.
‘APPOINTMENT OF SPECIAL COUNSEL
TO INVESTIGATE RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE WITH THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION AND RELATED MATTERS
By virtue of the authority vested in me as Acting Atto ey General, including 28 U.S.C. §§ 509, 510, and 515, in order to discharge my responsibility to provide supervision and management of the Department of Justice, and to ensure a full and thorough investigation of the Russian govemmenfs e orts to inter re in the 2016 presidential election, I hereby order as follows :
(a) Robert S. Mueller III is appointed to serve as Specia] Counsel for the United States
Department of Justice.
(b) The Special Counsel is authorized to conduct the investigation con nned by then-FBI Director James 8. Comey in testimony befre the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on March 20, 2017, including:
(i) any links an or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and
(ii) any matters that arose or may arise directly om the investigation; and
(iii) any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a).
(c) If the Special Counsel believes it is necessary and appropriate, the Special Counsel is
authorized to prosecute Federal crimes arising on the investigation of these matters. (d) Sections 600.4 through 600. l 0 of Title 28 of the Code of Federal Regulations are
applicable to the Special Counsel.
This is a wide ranging investigation .
The other Congressional Investgations , House and Senate can also proceed.
ROBERT S. MUELLER III
72 years old
1976: Joined U.S. attorney’s office in San Francisco.
1982: Moved to U.S. attorney’s office in Boston; worked on the investigation into the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
1989: Became assistant to Attorney General Richard Thornburgh, advising him on criminal matters and serving as liaison to the FBI, the DEA, and other federal agencies.
1995: Joined the U.S. attorney’s office, District of Columbia
1998: Became interim U.S. attorney, Northern District of California; later nominated and confirmed as U.S. attorney
2001-2013: Director of the FBI; nominated by President George W. Bush
In charge of the initial investigation into the Boston Marathon bombings
After his FBI career, helped manage the litigation against Volkswagen over emissions
Oversaw dispersal of restitution money in Takata air-bag case
What is a special counsel?
Under federal regulations from 1999, the attorney general may appoint a temporary special counsel from outside the Justice Department to conduct a criminal probe into a particularly sensitive matter and to potentially prosecute related wrongdoing. The appointment should be reserved for extraordinary situations when normal protocol is compromised by political conflicts.
Within the first 60 days of the special counsel’s appointment, the appointee must develop a proposed budget for the investigation for the attorney general’s approval. While the special counsel isn’t subject to day-to-day supervision, Mr. Mueller can be asked to report to the attorney general—or in this case, the deputy attorney general, because the attorney general has recused himself—about “any investigative or prosecutorial step.”
Mr. Mueller will have ample time to conduct his investigation. “There appear to be…no time limits on the special counsel’s authority, aside from annual reporting requirements for budgetary purposes,” according to a recent Congressional Research Service report.
How is a special counsel different from a federal prosecutor?
The two roles are very similar. Special counsels are granted the “full power and independent authority to exercise all investigative and prosecutorial functions of any United States Attorney.”
Perhaps the biggest difference is that the special counsel must be selected from outside the U.S. government and be a lawyer “with a reputation for integrity and impartial decision-making.” A special counsel can also recruit an investigative team from either within or outside the Justice Department.
The Justice Department has relied on the regulations just once, when Attorney General Janet Reno in 1999 appointed former Sen. John Danforth to investigate the “Branch Davidian” siege near Waco, Texas.
What is the difference between a special counsel and an independent counsel?
It is the degree of independence. The attorney general, or his acting deputy, retains far more control over the scope of a special investigation, its prosecutorial jurisdiction and its budget. The special counsel may only be removed by the attorney general—in cases of “misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or for other good cause”—although the president can dismiss the attorney general or the deputy attorney general at any time.
An independent counsel, which no longer exists under law, had far more latitude. The position was created after President Richard Nixon’s attempts to derail a criminal investigation of the Watergate scandal. The attorney general could request an independent counsel when allegations of wrongdoing by a high-ranking official arose. The request would be submitted to a judicial panel, which would pick the counsel, define the scope of the inquiry and its duration. The independent counsel could convene grand juries, grant immunity and prosecute any crimes stemming from the probe. The attorney general couldn’t remove the independent counsel except for incapacity or extraordinary impropriety.
The independence was a double-edged sword. During the Clinton administration, the sprawling investigation of the White House by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr led to a backlash from scholars and others who believed the probe veered away from its original mandate of looking into Whitewater allegations and raised separation-of-powers concerns. The law expired in 1999.
Can the special counsel file criminal charges?
Yes, but the special counsel can be required to keep the attorney general aware of any “investigative or prosecutorial step.” Justice Department rules state that the attorney general may conclude that charges are inappropriate or unwarranted. If the attorney general decides against pursuing charges, he must inform Congress.
Can a special counsel investigation coexist with congressional hearings and investigations into the same matter, and how would that work?
Congress on its own can conduct investigations and hold hearings on the conduct of executive branch officials, and the Senate and House intelligence committees are already conducting probes into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
But criminal prosecutions into possible violations of federal law are regarded as the job of the executive branch under Article II of the U.S. Constitution. There is nothing stopping the two branches from pursuing parallel inquiries.