Q&A: The mechanics of the Trump-Russia special counsel - KWES NewsWest 9 / Midland, Odessa, Big Spring, TX: newswest9.com |

Q&A: The mechanics of the Trump-Russia special counsel

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File). FILE - In this June 13, 2012, file photo then-FBI Director Robert Mueller listens as he testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. Mueller took office as FBI director in 2001 expecting to dig into drug cases, white-c... (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File). FILE - In this June 13, 2012, file photo then-FBI Director Robert Mueller listens as he testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. Mueller took office as FBI director in 2001 expecting to dig into drug cases, white-c...
  • Q&A: The mechanics of the Trump-Russia special counselMore>>

  • The Latest: Trump denies asking Comey to shelve Flynn probe

    The Latest: Trump denies asking Comey to shelve Flynn probe

    Friday, May 19 2017 8:12 AM EDT2017-05-19 12:12:15 GMT
    Friday, May 19 2017 8:12 AM EDT2017-05-19 12:12:15 GMT
    President Donald Trump is assailing the naming of a special counsel as "the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!".
    President Donald Trump is assailing the naming of a special counsel as "the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!".
  • Trump claims witch hunt, says he's most hounded leader ever

    Trump claims witch hunt, says he's most hounded leader ever

    Friday, May 19 2017 3:51 AM EDT2017-05-19 07:51:12 GMT
    Friday, May 19 2017 3:51 AM EDT2017-05-19 07:51:12 GMT

    The surprise announcement to hand over the probe was a striking shift for Trump's Justice Department, which had resisted increasingly loud calls from Democrats for an outside prosecutor.

    The surprise announcement to hand over the probe was a striking shift for Trump's Justice Department, which had resisted increasingly loud calls from Democrats for an outside prosecutor.

  • Trump says he's 'very close' to naming a new FBI director

    Trump says he's 'very close' to naming a new FBI director

    Friday, May 19 2017 3:42 AM EDT2017-05-19 07:42:46 GMT
    Friday, May 19 2017 3:42 AM EDT2017-05-19 07:42:46 GMT

    Trump has said he could name a candidate by the end of the week, before he departs Friday afternoon on his first overseas trip as president.

    Trump has said he could name a candidate by the end of the week, before he departs Friday afternoon on his first overseas trip as president.

  • House speaker promises tax overhaul this year despite chaos

    House speaker promises tax overhaul this year despite chaos

    Thursday, May 18 2017 5:51 PM EDT2017-05-18 21:51:43 GMT
    Thursday, May 18 2017 5:51 PM EDT2017-05-18 21:51:43 GMT
    Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says the United States can achieve a goal of 3 percent economic growth if there are historic changes in taxes and regulation.
    Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says the United States can achieve a goal of 3 percent economic growth if there are historic changes in taxes and regulation.
  • Former FBI Director Mueller to lead Trump-Russia probe

    Former FBI Director Mueller to lead Trump-Russia probe

    Thursday, May 18 2017 4:22 PM EDT2017-05-18 20:22:40 GMT
    Thursday, May 18 2017 4:22 PM EDT2017-05-18 20:22:40 GMT

    The Justice Department's appointment of Mueller follows weeks of questions about its independence from the White House and comes two months after Attorney General Jeff Sessions had to recuse himself because of his own undisclosed Russian contacts during the campaign.

    The Justice Department's appointment of Mueller follows weeks of questions about its independence from the White House and comes two months after Attorney General Jeff Sessions had to recuse himself because of his own undisclosed Russian contacts during the campaign.

  • Key moments of Trump-Comey clash and what's come after

    Key moments of Trump-Comey clash and what's come after

    Thursday, May 18 2017 3:30 AM EDT2017-05-18 07:30:00 GMT
    Thursday, May 18 2017 3:30 AM EDT2017-05-18 07:30:00 GMT
    A look at key moments in tenure of FBI Director James Comey, President Donald Trump's abrupt firing of him and what's come after.
    A look at key moments in tenure of FBI Director James Comey, President Donald Trump's abrupt firing of him and what's come after.
  • Ex-FBI director named special counsel in Russia investigation

    Ex-FBI director named special counsel in Russia investigation

    Wednesday, May 17 2017 6:07 PM EDT2017-05-17 22:07:31 GMT
    Wednesday, May 17 2017 9:00 PM EDT2017-05-18 01:00:48 GMT
    The Justice Department has named former FBI director Robert Mueller to serve as special counsel over the Russia investigation. (Source: AP Photo/Evan Vucci)The Justice Department has named former FBI director Robert Mueller to serve as special counsel over the Russia investigation. (Source: AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

    The Justice Department has named former FBI director Robert Mueller to serve as special counsel over the Russia investigation.  

    The Justice Department has named former FBI director Robert Mueller to serve as special counsel over the Russia investigation.  

By JEFF HORWITZ
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - A look at the powers and limits of Robert Mueller's new job as special counsel looking at possible links between Russia and Trump campaign associates.

Q. What will Mueller do as special counsel?

A. Mueller is supposed to carry on the investigation that former FBI Director James Comey told Congress about before he was fired by President Donald Trump. That includes any links between Trump campaign associates and Russia, as well as "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation," according to the letter appointing him.

Q. What are a special counsel's powers?

A. Under Justice Department regulations, a special counsel has all the authority of a U.S. attorney, including the ability to initiate investigations, subpoena records and bring criminal charges. One difference, however: Special counsels get to choose whether they inform the Justice Department what they're up to. Before taking "significant" actions, however, the special counsel must notify the attorney general.

Q. Could a special counsel investigate things beyond simply the Russia connection?

A. Mueller has a broad mandate to determine the course of an investigation, but not an unlimited one. If he decides that something outside the scope of the letter appointing him needs investigating, he would have to ask for permission to expand his probe.

Q. What's the difference between a special counsel and a special prosecutor or an independent counsel?

A. Independent counsels or special prosecutors don't exist anymore. These are titles that were established by law following Watergate, and they expired in 1999. The Justice Department created regulations to keep the concept alive in the form of the special counsel. Patrick Fitzgerald, the former U.S. attorney appointed to investigate the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame, was one.

Q. Who will work for the special counsel, and what sort of budget will Mueller have?

A. The Justice Department is supposed to supply staff for a special counsel - but Mueller can request specific people, or request the hiring of staff from outside the Justice Department. While working for Mueller, the staff will report to no one else. Mueller will have to propose a budget to the Justice Department within the next 60 days - and update it annually, for as long as the investigation runs. There is no expiration date for Mueller's authority.

Q. Could Trump fire Mueller?

A. No, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions' deputy, Rod Rosenstein, could. Special counsels can be fired only by the "personal action" of the attorney general. Since Sessions has recused himself from the Trump Russia investigation, Rosenstein - who signed the letter appointing Mueller as "acting attorney general" - is the only person with the authority to curtail Mueller's work. Such a firing would require a finding of incapacity, misconduct or "good cause." Whatever the reason, Rosenstein would have to inform Mueller in writing.

Q. Will the results of the investigation become public?

A. Not necessarily. When a special counsel closes shop, he or she must give the attorney general a confidential report explaining the decision to bring charges or drop the matter. The attorney general would have to notify Congress of the conclusion, but can decide whether to make the special counsel's report public.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • National PoliticsMore>>

  • 'We can use peace': Trump and Pope Francis meet

    'We can use peace': Trump and Pope Francis meet

    Wednesday, May 24 2017 5:28 PM EDT2017-05-24 21:28:15 GMT
    Wednesday, May 24 2017 5:28 PM EDT2017-05-24 21:28:15 GMT

    The meeting could provide powerful imagery to Catholic voters back in the United States as well as the possibility for conflict between a president and a pope who have not often seen eye-to-eye.

    The meeting could provide powerful imagery to Catholic voters back in the United States as well as the possibility for conflict between a president and a pope who have not often seen eye-to-eye.

  • Why Melania Trump covers her head one day and not the next

    Why Melania Trump covers her head one day and not the next

    Wednesday, May 24 2017 5:20 PM EDT2017-05-24 21:20:05 GMT
    Wednesday, May 24 2017 5:20 PM EDT2017-05-24 21:20:05 GMT
    Melania Trump is drawing attention for covering her head for some meetings but not others on President Donald Trump's first international trip.
    Melania Trump is drawing attention for covering her head for some meetings but not others on President Donald Trump's first international trip.
  • Subpoenas pile up for Michael Flynn's documents

    Subpoenas pile up for Michael Flynn's documents

    Wednesday, May 24 2017 5:24 PM EDT2017-05-24 21:24:08 GMT
    Wednesday, May 24 2017 5:24 PM EDT2017-05-24 21:24:08 GMT
    The ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee says the panel will be issuing subpoenas to get former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to cooperate with its investigation into Russian activities...
    The ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee says the panel will be issuing subpoenas to get former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to cooperate with its investigation into Russian activities during the 2016 election.
Powered by Frankly