[What follows is excerpted from a report published late yesterday on the website of The New York Times:]
The Justice Department appointed Robert S Mueller III, a former FBI director, as special counsel on Wednesday to oversee the investigation into ties between President Trump’s campaign and Russian officials, dramatically raising the legal and political stakes in an affair that has threatened to engulf Mr. Trump’s four-month-old presidency.
The decision by the deputy attorney general, Rod J Rosenstein, came after a cascade of damaging developments for Mr. Trump in recent days, including his abrupt dismissal of the FBI director, James B Comey, and the subsequent disclosure that Mr Trump asked Mr Comey to drop the investigation of his former national security adviser, Michael T Flynn. (...)
While Mr Mueller remains answerable to Mr Rosenstein — and by extension, the president — he will have greater autonomy to run an investigation than other federal prosecutors.
As a special counsel, Mr Mueller can choose whether to consult with or inform the Justice Department about his investigation. He is authorized to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump,” according to Mr Rosenstein’s order naming him to the post, as well as other matters that “may arise directly from the investigation.” (...)
Mr Rosenstein, who until recently was United States attorney in Maryland, took control of the investigation because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself after acknowledging he had failed to disclose meetings he had with the Russian ambassador to Washington, Sergey I Kislyak, when Mr Sessions was an adviser to the Trump campaign. (...)
Mr Mueller’s appointment was hailed by Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill, who view him as one of the most credible law enforcement officials in the country. (...)
Mr. Mueller served both Democratic and Republican presidents. President Barack Obama asked him to stay two years beyond the 10-year term until he appointed Mr Comey in 2013, the only time a modern-day FBI director’s tenure has been extended.
[RB: Mr Mueller has featured regularly on this blog. Perhaps the most egregious of his ill-advised interventions in the Lockerbie case was the remarkable letter sent to Kenny MacAskill after the release of Megrahi in August 2009. The late and much lamented Ian Bell wrote a blistering article in the Sunday Herald about this letter headlined What do US cops know about justice?]