Lawmakers in both parties hailed Wednesday’s appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Russia’s election meddling — a shift in Republican sentiment after allegations Trump sought to shut down a related probe.
The Justice Department has named former FBI Director Robert Mueller to oversee the Russia investigation, which includes looking into allegations of coordination between Moscow and the Trump campaign.
“I see it as a positive thing, especially having Bob Mueller involved,” Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) told POLITICO. “It brings a lot of public credibility to whatever process they go through.”
Burr, whose committee is leading its own investigation, had previously opposed the appointment of a special prosecutor, as did the vast majority of Republicans.
GOP Rep. Darrell Issa also praised the move.
“I view it as good and what we’ve been waiting for and I think it sends the right message that Mueller will go where the facts lead,” said the California congressman and former chairman of the House Oversight Committee. “It was inevitable.”
Many Senate Democrats had been demanding the appointment of a special prosecutor since Trump fired FBI Director James Comey last week, and a number had said they would not vote to confirm a successor to Comey unless the demand was met.
A report that Trump had urged Comey to drop his investigation into former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn raised further alarm among Democrats and some Republicans.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement Wednesday that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had “done the right thing” by appointing a special prosecutor.
“Former Director Mueller is exactly the right kind of individual for this job,” Schumer said. “I now have significantly greater confidence that the investigation will follow the facts wherever they lead."
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, called Mueller’s appointment “a good first step” for getting to the bottom of Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election and allegations of coordination with the Trump campaign.
“Bob was a fine U.S. attorney, a great FBI director and there’s no better person who could be asked to perform this function,” Feinstein said in a statement. “He is respected, he is talented and he has the knowledge and ability to do the right thing.”
Not every lawmaker felt the appointment was necessary, however.
"It’s fine, but there’s absolutely no need for it," said Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.). "Generally, there’s a crime. In Watergate, there was a crime. In the [Monica] Lewinsky case, there was a crime. There’s no crime here."
Burgess Everett and John Bresnahan contributed to this report.