Mueller accepts responsibility for Russia probe

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WASHINGTON (AP) Developments on Wednesday, May 17, about the appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special counsel to oversee a federal investigation into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 election (all times Eastern Daylight Time).

  • 9:25 p.m.

President Donald Trump said a thorough investigation will confirm what he said is already known: that there was no collusion between his presidential campaign and any foreign entity.

In a written statement Trump said he looks forward to “this matter concluding quickly.”

He also pledged to never stop fighting for the people and issues that are important to the country’s future.

Trump a week earlier fired James Comey from his post as FBI director, explaining it was partly because of the Russia investigation.

  • 8:20 p.m.

The top members of the Senate Judiciary Committee invited the former FBI Director to testify publicly.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the chairman of the committee, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., wrote Comey to ask him to testify on the “circumstances of your termination” and his interactions with the Trump administration about the FBI’s investigation into Russia.

The senators have also asked Comey to testify about his interactions with former President Barack Obama’s administration about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails.

A date was not set for the public hearing. The committee earlier asked the FBI and the administration for documents and tapes related to Comey’s interactions with Trump officials.

  • 8:00 p.m.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said he supports Mueller’s appointment as special counsel to pursue the investigation into the election meddling allegations against Russia and the Trump campaign.

Ryan said in a written statement he has wanted investigations that “follow the facts wherever they lead.” He said the Justice Department’s move to involve Mueller was consistent with that goal.

Ryan declined to call for a special prosecutor in remarks to reporters earlier in the day and warned against “rushing to judgment.” He also said “it is obvious” that some people want to harm Trump.

In his written statement, Ryan said the House investigation would continue.

  • 7:45 p.m.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Mueller’s appointment showed the investigation into whether Russia meddled in last year’s U.S. election “will continue.”

McConnell said the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation into the Russian effort to affect the election would also proceed.

He said initially that investigations by the Senate intelligence panel and the FBI were sufficient.

Pressure on Republicans for stronger action has grown amid reports that Trump asked former FBI Director Comey to drop an investigation into the administration’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn and gave classified information to Russian officials during an Oval Office meeting the day after Comey was fired.

  • 7:30 p.m.

Mueller said he accepts the responsibility of being appointed as special counsel.

“I accept this responsibility and will discharge it to the best of my ability,” Mueller said in a short statement.

Mueller’s law firm, WilmerHale, said he resigned immediately upon his appointment.

There has been a growing Democratic outcry for someone outside the Justice Department to handle the politically charged investigation of Russians and the Trump presidential campaign.

  • 6:55 p.m.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., said naming Mueller as a special counsel was a “good decision” that “assures the American people that there’s no undue influence” in the Russia-Trump investigation.

Burr said his committee’s job hasn’t changed and it would “continue to proceed forward” with its own investigation.

  • 6:40 p.m.

House Democrats welcomed the Justice Department decision to recruit Mueller.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement that Mueller was “a respected public servant of the highest integrity.”

“A special prosecutor is the first step, but it cannot be the last. Director Mueller will still be in the chain of command under the Trump-appointed leadership of the Justice Department,” she added.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee, called Mueller a “solid choice,” and commended Deputy Attorney General Ron Rosenstein for putting “our country and justice system first.”

  • 6:20 p.m.

House Republicans had mixed reactions to the surprise announcement from the Justice Department about Mueller being appointed special counsel.

Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said Mueller was a “great selection. Impeccable credentials. Should be widely accepted.”

But Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., expressed concern over the wide purview special prosecutors have. “I’m worried with all special counsels because there’s no control over them and they can abuse their power,” King said.

In the 1990s, Democrats insisted that independent counsel Kenneth Starr, who investigated former President Bill Clinton, overstepped his authority.

  • 6:00 p.m.

The Justice Department announced Mueller’s appointment as a special counsel to oversee a federal investigation into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election.

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