Former FBI Director Mueller takes over Trump-Russia probe

The U.S. Justice Department has appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller III as special counsel to oversee the federal investigation into Russia's alleged influence of the 2016 presidential election and possible coordination with Donald Trump's campaign.

"In my capacity as acting Attorney General, 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."

Democrats have been calling for someone outside the Justice Department to handle the politically charged investigation.

"[B]ased 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," Rosenstein said.

Before being fired, FBI Director James Comey wrote in a memo that President Donald Trump had asked him to drop a probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, according to several reports. Democrats and Republicans are calling on Comey to testify and for any of his memos to be turned over the Congress.

Trump said in a statement that his campaign did nothing wrong.

"A thorough investigation will confirm what we already know — there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity," he said. "I look forward to this matter concluding quickly."

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan issued a statement saying that the House's own probe will continue.

"My priority has been to ensure thorough and independent investigations are allowed to follow the facts wherever they may lead," Ryan said. "The addition of Robert Mueller as special counsel is consistent with this goal, and I welcome his role at the Department of Justice."

Deputy AG Rosenstein said that he believes in the "independence and integrity" of the people of the Department of Justice.

"Considering the unique circumstances of this matter, however, I determined that a Special Counsel is necessary in order for the American people to have full confidence in the outcome," Rosenstein said. "Our nation is grounded on the rule of law, and the public must be assured that government officials administer the law fairly." 

President George W. Bush appointed Mueller to lead the FBI in 2001. He took the helm of the bureau one week before the 9/11 attacks.

In 2011, Congress passed a law allowing President Barack Obama to extend Mueller's term two more years.