Trump went 'from the frying pan into the fire': Intelligence officials hail Robert Mueller's appointment as special prosecutor

On Wednesday evening, news broke that deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein had appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller as a special prosecutor in charge of investigating the Trump campaign's potential ties to Russian officials and collusion with Russia during the 2016 election.

Mueller's appointment was hailed by Democrats and Republicans alike, as well as those in the national-security community.

"Mueller is experienced, knowledgeable, capable," former assistant attorney general for national security David Kris wrote on Lawfare. "He is utterly incorruptible. He cannot be intimidated," Kris said, adding that Mueller is "ramrod straight in his integrity." Kris and Mueller worked closely together.

"Rod Rosenstein has taken serious lumps this week (everyone one of them deserved). Can't erase history but tonight he deserves our thanks," tweeted Susan Hennessey, a national-security fellow at the Brookings Institution and Lawfare contributor, when it emerged that Mueller had been appointed special prosecutor.

RELATED: A look at former FBI director Robert Mueller

23 PHOTOS
Former FBI Director Robert Mueller
See Gallery
Former FBI Director Robert Mueller
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 28: Former FBI director Robert Mueller attends the ceremonial swearing-in of FBI Director James Comey at the FBI Headquarters October 28, 2013 in Washington, DC. Comey was officially sworn in as director of FBI on September 4 to succeed Mueller who had served as director for 12 years. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama applauds outgoing Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) director Robert Mueller (L) in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington on June 21, 2013 as he nominates Jim Comey to be the next FBI director. Comey, a deputy attorney general under George W. Bush, would replace Mueller, who is stepping down from the agency he has led since the week before the September 11, 2001 attacks. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller applauds key staff members during a farewell ceremony held for him at the Justice Department in Washington, August 1, 2013. On Monday the U.S. Senate confirmed former Deputy Attorney General James Comey to replace Mueller, who has led the bureau since shortly before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW HEADSHOT)
391489 03: U.S. President George W. Bush speaks during a conference as he stands with Justice Department veteran Robert Mueller, left, who he has nominated to head the FBI, and Attorney General John Ashcroft July 5, 2001 the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller stands for the national anthem during a farewell ceremony for him at the Justice Department in Washington, August 1, 2013. On Monday the U.S. Senate confirmed former Deputy Attorney General James Comey to replace Mueller, who has led the bureau since shortly before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller (L) reacts to a standing ovation from the audience, Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole (C) and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (R) during Mueller's farewell ceremony at the Justice Department in Washington, August 1, 2013. On Monday the U.S. Senate confirmed former Deputy Attorney General James Comey to replace Mueller, who has led the bureau since shortly before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller gestures during his remarks at a farewell ceremony held for him at the Justice Department in Washington, August 1, 2013. On Monday the U.S. Senate confirmed former Deputy Attorney General James Comey to replace Mueller, who has led the bureau since shortly before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
FILE PHOTO -- U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft (R) and FBI Director Robert Mueller speak about possible terrorist threats against the United States, in Washington, May 26, 2004. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo
Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller reacts to applause from the audience during his farewell ceremony at the Justice Department in Washington, August 1, 2013. On Monday the U.S. Senate confirmed former Deputy Attorney General James Comey to replace Mueller, who has led the bureau since shortly before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 19: Chairman Pat Leahy, D-Vt., right, and FBI Director Robert Mueller make their way to a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Dirksen Building on oversight of the FBI. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller (C) delivers remarks at a farewell ceremony for him at the Justice Department in Washington, August 1, 2013. On Monday the U.S. Senate confirmed former Deputy Attorney General James Comey to replace Mueller, who has led the bureau since shortly before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Also onstage with Mueller are Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole (FROM L), U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, former CIA Director George Tenet and TSA Administrator John Pistole. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 15: (L-R) Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, FBI Director Robert Mueller and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton attend the National Peace Officers' Memorial Service at the U.S. Capitol May 15, 2013 in Washington, DC. Holder and other members of the Obama administration are being criticized over reports of the Internal Revenue Services' scrutiny of conservative organization's tax exemption requests and the subpoena of two months worth of Associated Press journalists' phone records. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
FBI Director Robert Mueller testifies before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on Federal Bureau of Investigation oversight on Capitol Hill in Washington June 13, 2013. Mueller said on Thursday that the U.S. government is doing everything it can to hold confessed leaker Edward Snowden accountable for splashing surveillance secrets across the pages of newspapers worldwide. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych (L) welcomes FBI Director Robert Mueller during their meeting in Kiev June 5, 2013. REUTERS/Efrem Lukatsky/Pool (UKRAINE - Tags: POLITICS)
FBI Director Robert Mueller (L) arrives for the Obama presidential inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol January 21, 2013 in Washington. President Barack Obama was re-elected for a second term as President of the United States. Woman at right is unidentified. REUTERS/Win McNamee-POOL (UNITED STATES)
WASHINGTON, : FBI Director Robert Mueller answers questions before Congress 17 October 2002 on Capitol Hill in Washington. Mueller was testifying before the House and Senate Select Intelligence committees' final open hearing investigating events leading up to the September 11, 2001. AFP Photos/Stephen JAFFE (Photo credit should read STEPHEN JAFFE/AFP/Getty Images)
(L-R) CIA Director Leon Panetta, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and FBI Director Robert Mueller testify at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 16, 2011. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
399994 02: Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Mueller visits the American military compound at Kandahar Airport January 23, 2002 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Mueller had lunch with FBI officials and Haji Gulali, commander of the Kandahar region. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Mueller (L) stand during the National Anthem alongside Attorney General Eric Holder (R) and Deputy Attorney General James Cole (C) during a farewell ceremony in Mueller's honor at the Department of Justice on August 1, 2013. Mueller is retiring from the FBI after 12-years as Director. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
399994 01: Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Mueller greets American forces on the American military compound at Kandahar Airport January 23, 2002 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Mueller had lunch with FBI officials and Haji Gulali, commander of the Kandahar region. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 19: FBI Director Robert Mueller, center, talks with Chairman Pat Leahy, D-Vt., right, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, talk before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Dirksen Building on oversight of the FBI. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 06: OVERSIGHT HEARING ON COUNTERTERRORISM--Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, and Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, before the hearing. (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Mueller rose to public prominence along with former FBI director James Comey in 2004, when he and Comey threatened to resign if the Bush administration revived the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program without making changes to it. At the time, Mueller was FBI director and Comey was the deputy attorney general. The White House eventually backed off.

During his time at the FBI, Mueller, who was sworn in as director shortly before the Sep. 11 terrorist attacks, largely presided over the bureau's shift to counterterrorism operations that now dominate a significant portion of its caseload.

Most recently, Mueller was a partner at the law firm WilmerHale, which represents a number of Trump associates including first daughter Ivanka trump, son-in-law Jared Kushner, and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. Upon being appointed as special prosecutor in the Russia probe, Mueller resigned from his position at the firm immediately in order to avoid any conflicts of interest.

Robert Novick, co-managing partner at WilmerHale, told Lawfare that Mueller "had nothing to do with these representations" and was not privy to any information related to Ivanka Trump, Kushner, or Manafort.

Along with their now-famous 2004 showdown with the Bush administration over the NSA's program, national security experts noted that Mueller and Comey also share another trait that may prove useful in the Russia probe: both men have "significant prosecutorial experience and have run a major investigative force."

Comey was the US attorney for the Southern District of New York before eventually becoming FBI director. Mueller was US attorney for the Northern District of California and assistant US attorney in the District of Massachusetts before becoming FBI director. He also used to spearhead the Department of Justice's Criminal Division.

Experts say that Mueller, like Comey, is known for his independence, and that makes him a great choice for special prosecutor. He also has not been afraid to push back against the White House in the past, as he did in 2004.

"He doesn't sway under political pressure,"Thomas J. Pickard, who served as deputy director of the FBI under Mueller, told The Washington Post. Mueller has served under Democratic and Republican presidents — he helmed the FBI under both of Bush's terms and Obama's first. "For 12 years, he kept the FBI out of politics," Pickard said.

Trump 'may have gone from the frying pan into the fire'

"I have enormous respect for Bob. We worked together when I was at the NSA," Robert Deitz, a former top counsel for the NSA and CIA who worked with Mueller when he headed the FBI, told Business Insider.

"The Russia investigation will continue apace with no loss of momentum," Deitz said. "The president may have gone from the frying pan into the fire."

Mueller's independence also indicates that he'd likely be just as hard on those who leak classified information as on those who may have broken the law and colluded with a foreign power.

"I have no doubt that he will be even-handed — including going hammer and tong after anyone who is leaking investigative or classified information, "George J. Terwilliger III, who worked with Mueller when they were assistant US attorneys, told The Post.

The Trump-Russia narrative has picked up steam over the last week, as the White House became embroiled in a number of controversies that raised questions about the president's and his associates' ties to Russian officials. Last Tuesday, the president abruptly fired Comey, who was spearheading the FBI's investigation into the Trump campaign's contacts with Russia and any attempts to collude with the foreign power during the 2016 election. The next day, Trump hosted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office at the request of Russian President Vladimir Putin. American reporters were not allowed into the room, but Russian reporters were.

RELATED: Inside Trump's meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak

17 PHOTOS
Trump meets with Lavrov and Kislyak
See Gallery
Trump meets with Lavrov and Kislyak
WASHINGTON, D.C., USA - MAY 10, 2017: Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, US President Donald Trump, and Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak (L-R) talking during a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House. Alexander Shcherbak/TASS (Photo by Alexander Shcherbak\TASS via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, D.C., USA - MAY 10, 2017: President Donald Trump (L) of the United States and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meet for talks in the Oval Office at the White House. Alexander Shcherbak/TASS (Photo by Alexander Shcherbak\TASS via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump (R) speaks with former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, May 10, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, D.C., USA - MAY 10, 2017: US President Donald Trump (L) shakes hands with Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak during talks with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (not inpicture) in the Oval Office at the White House. Alexander Shcherbak/TASS (Photo by Alexander Shcherbak\TASS via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 10: (AFP-OUT) President Donald Trump meets with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the Oval Office at the White House on May 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Molly Riley-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, D.C., USA - MAY 10, 2017: President Donald Trump (L) of the United States shakes hands with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as they meet for talks in the Oval Office at the White House. Alexander Shcherbak/TASS (Photo by Alexander Shcherbak\TASS via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, D.C., USA - MAY 10, 2017: US President Donald Trump (L) shakes hands with Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak during talks with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (not in picture) in the Oval Office at the White House. Alexander Shcherbak/TASS (Photo by Alexander Shcherbak\TASS via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, D.C., USA - MAY 10, 2017: Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrives at the White House for talks with US President Donald Trump. Alexander Shcherbak/TASS (Photo by Alexander Shcherbak\TASS via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 10: (AFP-OUT) President Donald Trump meets with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the Oval Office at the White House on May 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Molly Riley-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, D.C., USA - MAY 10, 2017: President Donald Trump (L) of the United States and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meet for talks in the Oval Office at the White House. Alexander Shcherbak/TASS (Photo by Alexander Shcherbak\TASS via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, D.C., USA - MAY 10, 2017: Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) and President Donald Trump of the United States meet for talks in the Oval Office at the White House. Alexander Shcherbak/TASS (Photo by Alexander Shcherbak\TASS via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 10: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (C) leaves the White House May 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. Lavrov met with U.S. President Donald Trump to discuss Ukraine, Syria and other bilaterial subjects, according to the White House. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, D.C., USA - MAY 10, 2017: President Donald Trump of the United States and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L-R) meet for talks in the Oval Office at the White House. Alexander Shcherbak/TASS (Photo by Alexander Shcherbak\TASS via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, D.C., USA - MAY 10, 2017: President Donald Trump (L) of the United States and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meet for talks in the Oval Office at the White House. Alexander Shcherbak/TASS (Photo by Alexander Shcherbak\TASS via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, D.C., USA - MAY 10, 2017: Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, US President Donald Trump, and Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak (L-R) talking during a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House. Alexander Shcherbak/TASS (Photo by Alexander Shcherbak\TASS via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, May 10, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Over the next few days, the president admitted that "this Russia thing" was a factor in his decision to fire Comey, telling NBC's Lester Holt that Comey was a "showboat" and a "grandstander." On Friday, Trump seemed to threaten Comey with "tapes" of their conversations if Comey leaked sensitive information to the press.

On Monday, The Washington Post, citing officials familiar with the matter, reported that the president disclosed highly-classified information to Lavrov and Kislyak during their Oval Office meeting. The New York Times later reported that the intelligence in question had come from Israel, a key US ally who is also an adversary of Iran, a key Russian ally.

The next day, The New York Times broke news of a memo that officials say Comey wrote about a February meeting he had with Trump in the Oval Office. According to the memo, Trump asked Comey to drop the FBI investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

"I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go," Trump told Comey, according to the memo. "He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go." The meeting took place one day after Flynn was forced to resign from his position after it emerged that he had lied about contacts he had with Kislyak.

The White House pushed back on the memo. "[T]he President has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn," said a statement released by an unnamed administration official. "The President has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies, and all investigations. This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the President and Mr. Comey."

On Wednesday, The Times reported that Flynn had informed the Trump transition team that he was under FBI investigation on Jan. 4. According to The Times, Flynn told transition team member Don McGahn, who now serves as White House counsel, about the investigation.

The Times' report seems to contradict the Trump administration's claim that it was not aware Flynn was under investigation before former acting attorney general Sally Yates informed them about it later in January. The White House did not dismiss Flynn until 18 days after Yates brought her concerns to them and warned that he may be vulnerable to Russian blackmail.

The steady drip of new details about the president's and his associates' ties to Russia necessitated the need for a special prosecutor, Glenn Carle, a former CIA clandestine-services officer, told Business Insider. Carle called Mueller "solid," "impartial," and "professional," and also added that Mueller's appointment may temporarily stall the Russia investigation.

"Things will slow down because Mueller will be deliberate and thorough," Carle said. While he said that the investigation's likely slowed pace may reduce the day-to-day tumult that's rocked the White House over the last few days, Carle added that it's likely Trump will try to "divert attention by having surrogates attack Mueller's independence and integrity."

RELATED: Key players in Trump-Russia connection allegations

10 PHOTOS
Key players in Trump-Russia connection allegations
See Gallery
Key players in Trump-Russia connection allegations

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort signed on as Donald Trump's campaign manager in March 2016. A longtime Republican strategist and beltway operative, Manafort had previously served as an adviser to former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich -- a pro-Russia leader who was violently ousted in 2014. Manafort resigned from his campaign position in August 2016 amid questions over his lobbying history in Ukraine for an administration supportive of Russia. The former campaign manager reportedly remained in Trump's circle during the post-election transition period.

Michael Flynn

Gen. Michael Flynn was named President Trump's national security adviser in November of 2016. Flynn reportedly met and spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December, at one point discussing sanctions. Flynn originally told Vice President Pence he did not discuss sanctions -- a point the Department of Justice said made the national security adviser subject to blackmail. Flynn resigned from his position in February.

Sergey Kislyak

Outgoing Russian ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak is the Russian official U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions -- communication Sessions denied during his Senate committee hearing testimony.

Roger Stone

Stone is a longtime Republican political consultant who served as a campaign adviser to Trump who continued to talk with the then-GOP candidate after stepping away from his adviser role. Stone claimed last year that he had knowledge of the planned WikiLeaks release of emails pertaining to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. Stone recently admitted to speaking via direct message with "Guccifer 2.0" -- an online entity U.S. officials believe is tied to Russia. Stone says the correspondence was “completely innocuous.”

Jeff Sessions

Former U.S. senator Jeff Sessions from Alabama joined Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser in February 2016. Sessions was nominated to be U.S. attorney general by President Trump and was then confirmed by the Senate. Reports then emerged that Sessions had spoken twice with Sergey Kislyak while he was senator -- a fact that he left out of his Senate hearing testimony. Instead, he said in writing that he had not communicated with any Russian officials during the campaign season. Sessions defended himself saying he had spoken with Kislyak specifically in a senate capacity.

Russian President Vladimir Putin

The American intelligence community accused Putin in Jan. 2017 of ordering a campaign to undermine trust in the American electoral process, developing a clear preference for Trump as president. "We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia's goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump," the report read.

James Comey

Comey publicly confirmed in March an FBI inquiry into Russia's involvement in the 2016 election. “The F.B.I., as part of our counterintelligence effort, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 president election,” Comey stated.

Carter Page

Page worked for Merrill Lynch as an investment banker out of their Moscow office for three years before joining Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser. During his time with Merrill Lynch, Page advised transactions for two major Russian entities. Page has called Washington "hypocritical" for focusing on corruption and democratization in addressing U.S. relations with Russia. While Page is someone Trump camp has seemingly tried to distance itself from, Page recently said he has made frequent visits to Trump Tower.

J.D. Gordon

Before Gordon joined the Trump campaign as a national security adviser in March 2016, he served as a Pentagon spokesman from 2005 through 2009. Like others involved in Trump-Russia allegations, Gordon met with ambassador Kislyak in July at the Republican National Convention, but has since denied any wrongdoing in their conversation. He advocated for and worked to revise the RNC language on and position toward Ukraine relations, so it was more friendly toward Russia's dealings in the country.

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

But given the precarious position the White House is currently in, Carle said, "it will be difficult for him to do so, and the costs would be high."

NOW WATCH: This animated map shows how religion spread across the world

More from Business Insider:

SEE ALSO: Trump reportedly asked Comey to end the investigation into Michael Flynn before Comey was fired

DON'T MISS: Justice Department appoints a special counsel to oversee Trump-Russia investigation

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.