The Department of Justice has appointed former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, a 1973 alumnus of the University Law School, to serve as special counsel to oversee the investigation into Russian tampering in the 2016 presidential election and the country’s alleged ties to President Donald Trump’s campaign. The appointment was announced on Wednesday. Mueller was the longest-serving FBI director since J. Edgar Hoover and has received numerous awards for his service in the Marine Corps including the Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals, the Purple Heart and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. Mueller led the FBI between 2001 and 2013. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s decision to appoint Mueller as special counsel came in light of Trump’s dismissal of former FBI director James Comey and the revelation of a memo from Comey that said Trump asked him to stop investigating Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser. Trump has denied making such a request of Comey. Comey, like Mueller, is an alum of a Virginia state university having graduated from William and Mary in 1982. He had previously led the investigation into possible ties between Russia and Trump. As special counsel, Mueller will act independently and has the ability to choose whether or not to consult with and inform the Justice Department during his investigation into links between Trump and the Russian government. He is authorized to press charges criminal charges and request resources as needed. The chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) said in a statement Wednesday that the appointment would provide oversight without being politicized. “The appointment of former FBI Director and respected lawyer Robert Mueller as special counsel for the Russia investigation is a positive development and will provide some certainty for the American people that the investigation will proceed fairly and free of political influence,” the statement read. Burr and Warner also said the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will be continuing their own investigation while also working with Mueller as needed. The chairman and vice chairman announced Friday that Comey has agreed to testify before an open session of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which is scheduled to occur after Memorial Day. “The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will continue its own investigation and to the extent any deconfliction is required, we will engage with Director Mueller and our expectation is that he will engage with the Committee as well,” the statement read. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) released a statement commending the appointment. “This is the right decision at the right time, and the right man was chosen for the job,” Nune said. “Robert Mueller is a highly respected former FBI Director who has tremendous integrity, and I’m confident he will lead a credible investigation.” In two tweets on Thursday, Trump called the investigation into possible ties with Russia “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history” and that “with all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special counsel appointed!” At a lunch with reporters, Trump said the appointment “hurts our country terribly.” Mueller was born in New York City, and moved to New Jersey to receive his undergraduate education from Princeton University. He then got a master’s degree in international relations from New York University in 1967. After he obtained his master’s, he served for three years as an officer leading the rifle platoon of the Third Marine Division in Vietnam. After his military service, Mueller decided to enroll in the University’s Law School. As a student, he served on the Virginia Law Review. Despite his travels far and wide, Mueller maintains his ties to his alma mater, and gave a commencement speech in 2003 to the University’s Law School. In 2013, he returned to receive the Jefferson Medal in Law.