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By Joshua Dietz

The beleaguered Trump presidency was beset by another setback, as Robert Mueller was named special counsel to the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Mueller has a deep resume, having served as U.S. attorney in San Francisco under Bill Clinton, and FBI director under George W. Bush (a position he retained under former President Barack Obama).  His non-partisan reputation has kept him in good standing among the Washington elite.

While President Trump has insisted that there was no collusion with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the spurious rumor has nonetheless persisted. While little (if any) credible evidence has emerged, this minor frivolity has not stopped the demand for President Trump’s impeachment. Some speculate as to whether James Comey was fired over his investigation of former National Security advisor Michael Flynn.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had this to say about the appointment:

“My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that prosecution is warranted.  I have made no such determination.”  However, he felt that a special counsel was necessary for the “American people to have full confidence in the outcome” of the investigation.

“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 wrote.

President Trump and his team were blindsided by the appointment, the LA Times reports. Rosenstein did not inform either the White House or Attorney General Jeff Sessions about the decision until after signing the order, appointing Mueller.  The appointment of a special counsel satisfied the more obnoxiously vocal contingent of the anti-Trump movement, including Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Diane Feinstein, as well as former Attorney General John Ashcroft.

As special counsel, Robert Mueller will be able to hire a staff and request funding from the Justice Department.  Upon accepting the appointment, he will resign from his law firm, WilmerHale, in order to avoid conflicts of interest.

Claims of Russian influence on the outcome of last November’s election have stymied President Trump’s ability to enact his mandate.  Moreover, his administration has suffered a continual series of intelligence leaks, undermining trust within the White House.  While it is unclear whether this investigation will bear fruit, we can be certain it will waste a lot of time and money.