Former Republican Sen. John Danforth speaks about Mueller probe

Special counsel insight

WASHINGTON -- Former Republican Sen. John Danforth was the last special counsel to investigate possible wrongdoing by the executive branch. In 2000, he cleared the Clinton administration in the 1993 siege of the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas.

John Danforth CBS News

"The American people should be very confident that this is going to be an investigation that will be done independently," Danforth said.

In authorizing the appointment, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein gave former FBI Director Robert Mueller broad powers to investigate "any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump," as well as other matters that "may arise directly from the investigation."

Federal regulations give Mueller "day to day independence" over how to run it and "whether charges should be brought."

Special counsel appointed to run the Russia investigation. Now what?

And if Rosenstein were to try to block any of Mueller's actions, he would have to explain why to Congress, which has several committee investigations of its own that may well take a backseat to the special counsel.

"It's going to be done by people in the business of conducting professional investigations and not making political points," Danforth said.

And you can be sure, says Danforth, that Mueller will not tolerate leaks from his team to the media.

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    Jan Crawford is CBS News Chief Political and Legal Correspondent. She is from "Crossroads," Alabama.