"In my capacity as acting Attorney General, I determined that it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authority and appoint a Special Counsel to assume responsibility for this matter", said Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein in a press release Wednesday.
Mueller's broad mandate gives him not only oversight of the Russian Federation probe, but also "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation".
Six of the previously undisclosed contacts described to Reuters were phone calls between Sergei Kislyak, Russia's ambassador to the United States, and Trump advisers, including Flynn, Trump's first national security adviser, three current and former officials said.
Officials familiar with the material under review told Reuters that following Trump's victory in the November 8 vote, Flynn and Kislyak discussed opening a line of communication between Trump and Putin that could "bypass the USA national security bureaucracy, which both sides considered hostile to improved relations".
On May 18, intelligence officials disclosed that members of the Trump campaign had 18 separate instances of communication with Russian officials between April through November 2016. The White House eventually admitted that Flynn did have 4 conversations with Kislyak, unknown to the head of the transition team, Vice President Mike Pence.
While the current and former American officials who reported this to Reuters say that they have not seen evidence of criminal activity in the communications themselves, the fact that these exchanges contradict the Trump campaign's initial version of events inevitably arouses suspicion and increases the desire for a full account of the relationship between the Trump campaign and Russian government. On May 9, he fired FBI Director James Comey for his alleged incompetence, but critics said that Trump was actually getting rid of him because he was investigating the president's ties to Russian Federation and wanted more money to do so. Flynn's lawyer declined to comment. No one from either the Trump administration or the Russian government has been willing to comment on the report of the additional contacts.More news: Chelsea Manning 'looking forward to so much' after release
The 18 calls and electronic messages took place between April and November 2016 as hackers engaged in what USA intelligence concluded in January was part of a Kremlin campaign to discredit the vote and influence the outcome of the election in favour of Mr Trump over former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.
The other 12 calls, emails, or texts concerned themes such as U.S. -Russia cooperation, according to the sources who spoke to Reuters. Flynn's records of this meeting have since been subpoenaed by the Senate Intelligence Committee. Reuters says those communications are being reviewed by congressional investigators and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, whose probe into Trump's alleged ties to Russian Federation is now being led by special counsel Robert Mueller. Trump and his aides have repeatedly denied any collusion with Russian Federation. Also, how is it possible that Mike Pence, the head of the transition team, would not have a clue that multiple members of his team were in contact with Russian Federation so many times? Putin is godfather to Medvedchuk's daughter. And throughout it all, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook would neither confirm nor deny contact between the Clinton camp and the Kremlin.
"I am not acquainted with any of Donald Trump's close associates, therefore no such conversation could have taken place", he said. According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released May 15, 59 percent of Americans, including a growing number of Republicans, want an independent investigation into the possible Trump connections with Russian Federation.
Those aren't the Flynn contacts with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that were already known. If need be, USA officials investigating the contacts could request that their identities be revealed.
USA and allied intelligence and law enforcement agencies routinely monitor communications and movements of Russian officials.
In this February 10, 2017, file photo, then-national security adviser Michael Flynn sits in the East Room of the White House in Washington.