Reposted from CBS News –
Former FBI Director Rober Mueller has been appointed special counsel to oversee the investigation into the Trump administration’s alleged ties with Russia and interference in the presidential election. Many people use the term “special prosecutor”, or “independent counsel”. Here’s what you need to know about the terms.
Who was calling for a special prosecutor, and why?
Congressional Democrats, mostly. They wanted one because they don’t think the Trump administration is capable of investigating itself impartially when it comes to President Trump’s ties to Russia. Those fears were exacerbated when President Trump fired the FBI director, James Comey, and further exacerbated when the existence of a memo written by Mr Comey came to light, in which he detailed how Mr Trump asked him to back off the investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions was forced to recuse himself from the investigation after it was revealed that Sessions had an undisclosed meeting with the Russian ambassador before the election. “We need a real, bipartisan, transparent investigation into Russia,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren at the time.
Special prosecutor or special counsel?
The formal name for a special prosecutor, in this sense, is a “special counsel.” With the title come broad investigatory powers, allowing Former Director Mueller to look into the Russia matter with limited oversight. Special counsels tend to come from within the Justice Department itself — many are U.S. Attorneys, or assistant U.S. Attorneys, but in cases where there is deemed to be potential for a conflict of interest, someone from outside the Justice Department may be appointed.
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