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The FBI's Russia investigation is getting turned over to an independent counsel

The Justice Department named former FBI Director Robert Mueller to handle the investigation.

The Justice Department has named an independent counsel to take over the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible ties between Moscow and the Trump campaign.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced Wednesday that a former FBI Director, Robert S. Mueller III, will be the special counsel.

Rosenstein said he's decided it's in the public interest to appoint a special counsel to handle the case. But he said that does not mean a crime has been committed or any prosecution is needed.

"What I have determined," Rosenstein said, "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.”

Normally, the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, would make these kinds of decisions. But because Sessions worked on the Trump campaign he has stepped aside from the investigation.

Members of Congress have been calling for an outside investigator to take over the case, especially since President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey last week.

Who's Robert Mueller?

Mueller (whose last name is pronounced "MULL-er"), served as Director of the FBI from 2001 to 2013, in both Republican and Democratic administrations.

He's also served as a federal prosecutor. The Justice Department says Mueller is resigning from the law firm where he's been working to take over his new assignment.

Fox News notes Mueller took over at the FBI just before the 9/11 attacks and made the Bureau more of an anti-terrorism and counter-intelligence agency.

Early reaction

There was some positive reaction to Mueller's appointment, from Republicans as well as Democrats. U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, one of three Minnesota Republicans in Congress, represents the suburbs west and south of the Twin Cities.

Jacob Chaffetz of Utah, a Republican who heads the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, tweeted: "Mueller is a great selection. Impeccable credentials. Should be widely accepted."

CBS News reports that as a special counsel Mueller will have civil service protection, which means he cannot be dismissed by the White House.

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