WASHINGTON Members of the U.S. Congress on Wednesday generally approved of the appointment of former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate possible connections between President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign team and Russia.
Committees in the House and the Senate will continue their own investigations while Mueller leads the Justice Department's probe.
Mueller's appointment comes after the administration was rocked by reports that Trump asked Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey to drop an investigation of Mike Flynn, who resigned amid allegations of contacts with Russia. Trump fired Comey last week.
Below are reactions to the Mueller appointment:
"As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know - there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity. I look forward to this matter concluding quickly."
- Trump in a statement
"A special prosecutor is the first step but it cannot be the last. Director Mueller will still be in the chain of command under the Trump-appointed leadership of the Justice Department. He cannot take the place of a truly independent, outside commission that is completely free from the Trump administration’s meddling."
- Democratic Representative Nancy Pelosi in a statement
"I don’t think they should have appointed someone ... Where is the actual crime that they think they need a special prosecutor to prosecute? ... What I worry is Democrats are going to politically exploit this on a daily drumbeat."
- Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight Committee investigating Russian influence, in a Fox News interview in which he also praised Mueller's "impeccable credentials."
"I think the president ought to now back off and let the justice system proceed as it proceeds in all cases. I think tweeting about the process of the investigation is not helpful and again, I think if he has done nothing wrong there will be no problem."
- Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings to reporters
"This had gotten too political. Any news comes out, those on the left yell impeach, some on the right say it's fake. So this hopefully detoxes some of the politics."
- Republican Representative Adam Kinzinger to reporters
"It's fine but there's absolutely no need for it...In Watergate, there was a crime. In the (Monica) Lewinsky case, there was a crime. There's no crime here."
- Republican Representative Peter King to Politico
"Hopefully, he (Mueller) will be seen as someone that both Democrats and Republicans can support. I think it's a prudent move. And it certainly means that the administration is taking it seriously."
- Republican Representative Mark Meadows to reporters
"This must only be a first step. No doubt this investigation should extend to the circumstances that led to the president’s abrupt dismissal of James Comey and to other critical matters that arise."
- Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy
"I would hope that the people here (in Congress) will believe if a special prosecutor tells them that there's no indication that the Russians have done anything here, that they will finally open their eyes, and say, 'There's no there, there.'"
- Republican Representative Dana Rohrabacher to Reuters
"The appointment of former FBI director and respected lawyer Robert Mueller ... is a positive development and will provide some certainty for the American people that the investigation will proceed fairly and free of political influence."
- Republican Richard Burr and Democrat Mark Warner, leading members of the Senate committee investigating Russian influence, in a statement
(Compiled by Bill Trott; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)