Montana Senators Praise Mueller Appointment in Trump Probe

Both of Montana’s U.S. senators are praising Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s decision to appoint former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate any potential ties between President Donald Trump’s associates and Russia.

Rosenstein made the appointment Wednesday, saying he “determined that it is in the public interest” to have Mueller, a 12-year veteran of the FBI, take over the bureau’s investigation. The decision has since received strong support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines said Mueller’s unblemished reputation made him an ideal candidate for the job, even though Daines did not immediately call for an independent investigation as some lawmakers did.

In supporting Mueller’s appointment as special counsel, Daines joins a growing chorus of Republican lawmakers who welcome the decision, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, who initially said he didn’t think a special prosecutor was a good idea in the aftermath of Trump’s sudden dismissal of former FBI Director James Comey.

The move by Trump cast a shadow of doubt over the federal investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. election, which was further exacerbated by reports that Comey alleged in a memo that Trump asked him to “let … go” of his investigation into the president’s ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Reports of the memo prompted strong bipartisan calls for independent oversight.

“We need the bipartisan U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to continue its ongoing investigation — and we need a special prosecutor to take care of the criminal aspects of the Russia investigation at the Department of Justice (DOJ),” according to a statement from Daines. “That’s why the appointment on May 17 of former FBI Director Robert Mueller to be the special counsel at DOJ is the right thing to do: he knows the Bureau, he knows the agents and he is above reproach.”

Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, who supports the bipartisan investigations of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, was also an early advocate for an independent investigation conducted outside the halls of Congress, and a special prosecutor to look into the Trump administration’s alleged ties to Russia.

Tester said he is deeply concerned about the allegations that the president disclosed classified information to the Russian ambassador to the United States and the Russian Foreign Minister, and he’s encouraged by Mueller’s appointment.

“There are so many unanswered questions. We need answers, we need an independent investigation, and Mr. Comey should come before Congress and tell Americans, under oath, what really happened,” according to a statement from Tester. “The American people deserve a transparent and honest account of what took place. We need clarity so we can focus our full attention on strengthening our state’s economy and building a Montana that works for the next generation.”

Following Comey’s firing, Tester was immediately critical of the president’s decision, which the administration said was in response to Comey’s handling of an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, while Daines expressed support.

“No one is above being held accountable, not even the President of the United States,” Tester stated. “The FBI has a long history of playing a critical role in investigating matters of national security. I am deeply concerned that this decision will result in an abandonment of the FBI’s ongoing efforts and it underscores the urgent need for an independent investigation.”

In February, Tester called for an independent investigation after Russia coordinated cyber attacks on the United States’ election process.