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Former FBI head Robert Mueller to oversee Trump-Russia investigation

As special counsel, Mueller has the power to subpoena documents and prosecute any crimes, independent of Congress. Photograph: J. Scott Applewhite/AP
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“My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted,” Rosenstein wrote in a separate letter. “I have made no such determination.

What I have determined is that based upon the 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.”

In a statement released after Mueller’s appointment was announced, Trump said:

“As I have stated many times, 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. In the meantime, I will never stop fighting for the people and the issues that matter most to the future of our country.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on the appointment.  “There is nothing to comment on. It is an internal matter for the United States,” he said.

James Comey speaks alongside Robert Mueller at the White House in 2013. Photograph: Jason Reed/Reuters

James Comey speaks alongside Robert Mueller at the White House in 2013. Photograph: Jason Reed/Reuters

Also on Wednesday night, a 2016 exchange among Republican House leadership surfaced in which majority leader Kevin McCarthy suggested that Donald Trump was on Vladimir Putin’s payroll. According to a transcript of the conversation, which was first reported by the Washington Post, McCarthy said:

“There’s … there’s two people, I think, Putin pays: (California Representative Dana) Rohrabacher and Trump … (laughter) … swear to God.” Then speaker Paul Ryan responded: “This is an off the record … (laughter) … NO LEAKS … (laughter) … alright?!”

After the Post’s report was published online, McCarthy tweeted: “This was an attempt at humor gone wrong.”

Ryan’s office also defended the remarks as a bad joke, saying in a statement that, “No one believed the majority leader was seriously asserting that Donald Trump or any of our members were being paid by the Russians.”

Later on Wednesday, a third bombshell report surfaced, alleging that Michael Flynn, Trump’s now disgraced former national security adviser, had told the president’s transition team weeks before being appointed that he was under federal investigation for working, in secret, as a paid lobbyist for Turkey.

The report from the New York Times shows that the Trump team was aware Flynn was being investigated much earlier than has been reported. The White House was not aware of Rosenstein’s decision to appoint Mueller until after the order was signed, according to a justice department official.

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