Comey tried to hide in White House curtains to avoid Trump

"He appointed Mueller because he was cognizant enough to understand whether or not he thought he could be fair in the investigation was irrelevant", said Steven Silverman, a Baltimore attorney who has known Rosenstein for years. Former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman was seen as the front-runner.

Earlier this week, investors dumped stocks in response to reports that Trump in February had asked Comey to stop investigating his former national security adviser, prompting accusations the president may have tried to hamper the probe.

Russian Federation has denied US intelligence agencies' conclusion that it interfered in the election campaign to try to tilt the vote in Trump's favor.

Another 55% said Trump's disclosure made them feel "not confident" with his ability to handle highly classified information, while almost as many (52%) said the disclosure made them feel "not confident" in the President's ability to keep the country safe from terrorism.

Rosenstein said the Mueller appointment was "necessary in order for the American people to have full confidence in the outcome".

Close aides and advisors to Mr Trump have been under scrutiny for having contact with Russians during the campaign and during the presidential transition period.

Trump strongly disagreed. The appointment, he said in a briefing with news anchors, "hurts our country terribly".

"The entire thing has been a witch hunt", he declared, echoing one of the tweets he'd sent out just after dawn: "This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!" A special counsel, by contrast, is an official appointed by the Justice Department and subject, like many other federal criminal investigators and prosecutors, to the Justice Department's supervision and control. "That's taken off, '" Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy said on Twitter.

From the time Mr. Trump asked for his loyalty in the FBI's ensuing investigation - and Mr. Comey replied he could only pledge his "honesty" - to Mr. Trump's latest attempt to end the entire FBI probe into what he calls "this Russian Federation thing" that he says is a "made-up story".

The meeting, at which all senators were free to ask questions and make statements, had been expected to be contentious as anger flared over Comey's dismissal and Rosenstein's possible role in it.

Rosenstein himself in the last week has come under intense criticism as the author of a memo that chastised Comey for his handling of the Hillary Clinton email case, which the White House initially cited as justification for the firing.

Comey reportedly told Trump that if he wanted details on the FBI's investigations, he ought to contact the Justice Department and follow proper procedures. "Because you look at all of the people on the Democratic side, not only the Republican side, that were saying such awful things about director Comey", he said.

U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, next to Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, May 10, 2017.

"That was a poor, poor performance".

"Well I respect the move, but the entire thing has been a witch hunt", he said, insisting there had been "no collusion" between his campaign and Russian Federation. "The investigation would have always continued, and obviously, the termination of Comey would not have ended it".

Mueller's appointment may halt the rising tide of criticism and demands for investigation into the Russian Federation controversy and even give Trump breathing room to get his house into order.

  • Zachary Reyes