Former FBI Director Robert Mueller named special prosecutor for Russian Federation investigation

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That's according to several United States senators who met with Rosenstein Thursday afternoon in a secure room in the Capitol basement. The Hill reports two Democratic senators say Rosenstein said he knew Comey was going to be fired before writing a memo recommending the firing.

The White House initially said that letter prompted Trump to fire Comey, but Trump later said he had already made a decision to dismiss him and was thinking of "this Russian Federation thing".

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller after a succession of jarring developments that brought questions over Russia's alleged meddling in the election and possible collusion by the Trump campaign to a boil. Mr Comey is said to have declined, and only offered his "honesty". "And numerous questions he declined to answer came down to his concern of whether he might interfere with the investigation by Robert Mueller".

Mr. Trump added, "I'm not under investigation". The move has received praise from both Republicans and Democrats.

"The general consensus is it was a good decision to pick a special counsel", said South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, saying most lawmakers have "a lot of confidence in Mr. Mueller", who ran the Federal Bureau of Investigation for 12 years.

The White House also has acknowledged that Kushner met with [Sergey] Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the USA, in late November.

Senator Klobuchar said stakes could not be higher.

"Congress has been pretty much sidelined".

His argument: Congressional interviews and hearings could inadvertently harm or complicate the criminal investigation.

"I believe that the professionals at the Justice Department need to do their jobs independently, objectively and throughly, and I believe that the special counsel, which is Robert Mueller now, helps them do that", Ryan said at his weekly press conference.

The winners of such a shift could be congressional Republicans. "We can go back to dealing with legislative matters that affect the American people". "That is a train wreck waiting to happen". "The scope of the investigation is still the same".

They included Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey, reports that Trump had previously pressured Comey to end a probe of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and Trump discussing sensitive information on Islamic State with the Russian foreign minister.

Comey reportedly wrote up a memo about having been asked that by Trump.

Questions remain about what contacts took place between Trump advisers and the Russians, and about Russia investments in Trump businesses.

The revelation comes as the investigation appears to be entering a more overtly active phase, with investigators shifting from work that has remained largely hidden from the public to conducting interviews and using a grand jury to issue subpoenas.