A former FBI boss Robert Mueller has been named special counsel to oversee an inquiry into Russia's alleged meddling in the election and any Trump campaign ties.
In naming Mueller, the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said it was in the public interest to have an outsider.The appointment was widely endorsed by politicians from both sides.
Calls for a special investigation had mounted since President Donald Trump fired the most recent FBI director, James Comey, last week.
The announcement apparently took the White House by surprise, with Trump only being informed of it after the Deputy Attorney General had signed the order.
French President Emmanuel Macron has unveiled a gender-balanced cabinet in accordance with an earlier pledge, with women taking up 11 of 22 posts.