May 17, 2017: Robert Mueller appointed to special counsel in Russia probe

Rod Rosenstein tapped Mueller to investigate "any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump."
7:32 | 05/17/18

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Transcript for May 17, 2017: Robert Mueller appointed to special counsel in Russia probe
This is an ABC news special. George Stephanopoulos. Good afternoon we are coming on the air now with a major news from the Department of Justice the acting attorney general rob rose and Stein. Has decided to appoint a special counsel. To investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election any ties with the trump campaign and they call it related matters this is a big news from the Department of Justice. I want to read you the state in the coming now from the acting attorney general rob rose and Stein whose course is serving as acting attorney general. Because the attorney general Jeff Sessions my has recused himself from all matters related to Russia. Here is what the acting attorney general said. In my capacity as acting attorney general I determine that it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authority and appoint a special counsel to assume responsibility for this matter. My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted I've made no such determination. What I have determined is that based upon the unique circumstances the public interest requires me. The places investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command. A special counsel is necessary in order for the American people to have full confidence in the outcome. Our nation's ground on the rule of law and the public must be sure the government officials administer the law fairly. It's special counsel will be Jim Jim Robert Mueller who was a director of the FBI from 2001 to 2013. More than ten years. Former US attorney assistant attorney general for the criminal division as well respected throughout washing is a straight shooter from both parties are wanted to restrict our senior justice correspondent. Pierre Thomas and Pierre. This was something that the Justice Department did even mr. rose assigned had resisted what was the tipping point over into this decision. But was still reporting this outdoors but there were two key things have happened last week FBI director former FBI director James Coley was fired. And there would these questions about rod Rosen signs role in that firing at first we heard that it was. Perhaps at his urging that we heard it was actually at the president trots urging that could only be fired so his independence had somewhat been tainted by that. Then there's blockbuster yesterday. The fact it. Director Coley was saying that there are memos. That suggested that president trump had tried to influence the investigation into Michael Flynn suggesting that. It should be it go away. That. Blockbuster came out so here you have the acting attorney general in this case rod rows and side wanted to make a decision. That will allow the public to have confidence that one way or the other this would be resolved in a way that's independent from the justice. Our senior White House correspondent senior Vega at the White House right now Cecile went to the White House now what do they know right now. What a pretty extraordinary. Thirty minute heads up George that is all this White House got on this move and I've also been in touch with sources. On Capitol Hill you would think would have seen this coming there is complete shock right now in both sides of Washington to the reaction here the White House. Down to capital health George this is a White House incomplete. Crisis mode right now we are talking about a third and bombshell three days in a row right now the scene that I have seen. Every night so far this week inside this west wing reporters camp outside. Of Sean Spicer his office waiting for answers to yet another explosive story line we don't have a response. Yet from the White House we do know as I said that they know that this. Has the has happened that the special counselor has been appointed. And and we know that this White House has been opposed to that that they have been on the record the president himself. That an independent commission is not needed the White House is said that this would be a waste of resources. This is White House that cannot stick to their agenda right now because they're too busy trying to put out crisis after crisis after crisis George. And the big question right now is this some in the president was convinced. Game they really had no choice if this had to happen. And that they're willing now to cooperate with the special special counseling or you can continue to report what you do don't bring in our chief legal analyst Dan Abrams. Right here right now so let's talk about exactly what Robert Mueller is gonna do right now. So he's got sixty days to basically put together a budget and a T he's gonna hire his own team of people. Doesn't mean he's gonna use the current Justice Department. He's gonna have his own folks who are gonna do this investigation these typically can take what state seeks to even nine months to reach a resolution. But remember. Once he reaches a resolution he hands it over to the attorney general yes his investigation is independent. He is supposed to do everything without the input of the attorney general in this case but once he's finished. He hands that report to be attorney general. And then the attorney general has to decide what to do and in this case the B rob Rosen and acting attorney general because it's been that refusal of Bob Jeff Sessions and if there is a decision not to act on the special counsel's recommendations. Well then there is some explaining to do to congress. That have to happen. But where were a lot of steps are way up from there at this point this is really this is a stunning development because you're not talked about this and Good Morning America. I didn't think it would be a special prosecutor as of a week ago. The special counsel for the most part even Republicans were holding the line in the house in the senate that's started to crack today it cracked as a result of yesterday. Let's be clear it was this new report. About TH home he's notes that I think forced the hands of rob rose inside. Where he said. I have to figure out a way to avoid a showdown between the FBI and the president of the United States and the way to do that at least to minimize cities. Getty well respected well regarded special cat special counsel like Robert Mueller. So when this investigation is done the acting attorney general can accept the recommendation he can reject recommendations. He pretty can also fire. Right but if you if you reject the recommendation again that that would be of real political crisis. Eighties it is expected that when someone like Robert Mueller issues a report that the attorney general. And in this case the acting attorney general. Will act art. What are the big questions right now is how this is gonna effect of various congressional. Investigations we have the senate and House Intelligence Committee is looking at this. We have the government oversight committees actually requesting inviting James Connelly the former FBI director come up and testify get in their notes. Will he do that now our turn everything over to the special. That's the big question because Wednesday were supposed to have this big hearing which was you know sort of being billed as this enormous show downward James call me was gonna disclose everything. Now we're gonna have to see if any of this changes that. Because remember congress can still of course continue its own investigation. In addition to an independent counsel investigation. But I think this does. Help at least take things down a notch at least people who are looking for cover can say. Let's let the special counsel. Deal would this so we'll have to see what impact it has on Wednesday's hearing. Very haven't another blockbuster this evening Robert Mueller the former director of the FBI. Has been appointed by the acting attorney general to be the special counsel looking union to Russia's interference from the 2016 election any possible ties with the charm campaign. And related matters that's the wording. Of the appointment right there again he will have full independence now to look into this matter Sunday have been resisted by the White House and Republicans on Capitol Hill. It is happening now. We have much more tonight on world news tonight we did in Europe Osce tomorrow GMAC. This has been a special.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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