This editorial was first published in The Providence (Rhode Island) Journal, a fellow GateHouse Media publication. Guest editorials don't necessarily reflect the Daily Messenger's opinions.

Claims of Russian interference in last year’s election and news stories featuring anonymous sources, coupled with President Trump’s own troubling behavior, have led many Americans to lose confidence that ongoing Washington investigations are on the up-and-up. The Trump Justice Department’s decision Wednesday to seek an independent counsel to look into these matters thus offers an opportunity for some of this to be resolved by nailing down facts. Americans have a right to know the truth.

Such special investigations often wander far afield, to be sure, turning into fishing expeditions to justify their existence, a prospect that may hearten Democrats after last November’s defeat. Republicans fear that an ongoing circus — fueled by Mr. Trump’s almost daily habit of tweeting bizarre and contentious messages — may ruin the GOP’s chances of pushing through tax cuts and reforming health care. But the appointed counsel, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, 72, has a reputation for being professional and patriotic. He might well pursue a mission of getting the facts out rather than trying to serve himself or play politics.

Certainly, an almost daily barrage of reported scandals has raised questions about what is going on.

For example, if President Trump really tried to thwart an investigation of his one-time appointee Michael Flynn, that would be a serious — and possibly impeachable — offense. The Washington Post and The New York Times created a firestorm this week with stories about a memo that former FBI Director James Comey reportedly wrote after a private meeting with Mr. Trump in February.

Anonymous sources — whose political leanings and possible motives may be thereby cloaked from the public — said that Mr. Trump talked to Mr. Comey about an FBI probe into Mr. Flynn. “I hope you can let this go,” Mr. Trump reportedly said, according to Mr. Comey’s alleged later recollection.

The stories suggest a brazen and reckless attempt by Mr. Trump to insert himself into an ongoing investigation. Some see that as grounds for an obstruction of justice charge.

But the stories cry out for more facts.

What does the reported memo really say — not just isolated quotes being cited by an anonymous source? Is Mr. Comey’s reconstructed conversation to be trusted as the final word? (Mr. Comey recently made a false report to Congress, and the White House insisted his alleged account was inaccurate.) Was there any other evidence that Mr. Trump attempted to hamper the investigation? (The FBI says no.)

If Mr. Trump attempted to obstruct justice in this manner, why did Mr. Comey keep it a secret for months — from congressional investigators as well as the public? Why was this information only revealed after the FBI director was fired? Does that suggest he or someone else came to view the memo as a political weapon and a means of revenge, rather than serious evidence of a crime?

Mr. Comey should turn over the memo, if it exists, and answer questions under oath about all these matters.

Every president must have the utmost respect for the role of law-enforcement agencies, and for the independence of all investigations. Citizens must never tolerate efforts by any president to thwart an investigation or use intelligence agencies to spy on political adversaries for political purposes.

A politicized FBI that favors some powerful politicians or parties over others would pose a danger to the rule of law in the United States, under which all are supposed to be treated equally. In grave matters such as this, it is important that news stories featuring anonymous sources be followed up with documents, facts and fully attributed statements.