“The appointment of Mr. Mueller dramatically raises the stakes for President Trump in the multiple investigations into his campaign’s ties to the Russians. It follows a swiftly moving series of developments that have roiled Washington, including Mr. Trump’s abrupt dismissal of the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, and the disclosure that the president urged Mr. Comey to drop the bureau’s investigation into his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn.”
It is the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein making this announcement, and not the Attorney General Jeff Session himself making it, likely because AG Sessions had previously recused himself from the Russia investigation due to misstatements related to his meetings with the Russian ambassador Kislyak. In his carefully-crafted statement quoted by the Washington Post, Deputy AG Rosenstein made it clear that this was a very big deal, but also emphasized that this move should not be considered proof of any sort of guilt:
“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 … My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted. 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.’’
Robert Mueller is a highly-respected former director of the Bureau, serving as its head from 2001 to 2013. He guided the agency through the attacks of September 11, 2001 (becoming Director of the FBI just one week before 9/11) and he shaped its critical role during the Global War on Terrorism for over a decade. He is just about as serious and credible a person for this role as can be imagined.