Under heavy fire from Trump, Mueller
soldiered on in Russia probe
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[March 23, 2019]
By Will Dunham
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Twelve days after
being named special counsel to investigate Russia's role in the 2016
U.S. presidential election, Robert Mueller delivered a speech to his
granddaughter's high school graduating class at Tabor Academy in Marion,
In this rare public appearance in May 2017, Mueller did not bring up
President Donald Trump or the investigation, but offered a clear message
stressing the importance of honesty and integrity.
"You could be smart, aggressive, articulate, indeed persuasive, but if
you are not honest, your reputation will suffer," Mueller said. "And
once lost, a good reputation can never, ever be regained. The saying
goes: If you have integrity, nothing else matters, and if you do not
have integrity, nothing else matters."
On Friday, Mueller handed in the long-awaited report on his
Mueller, a 74-year-old decorated Vietnam War veteran and former FBI
director known for his tough, no-nonsense leadership style, has faced
unremitting attacks by Trump on his integrity as the Republican
president has tried to discredit the investigation and the special
counsel himself. Trump declined to sit for an interview with the special
Mueller has remained silent about the inquiry but has spoken loudly
through court filings and the indictments of 34 people, including
several key Trump aides as well as Russian intelligence officers and
three Russian companies.
Mueller, a longtime Republican, was named by the Justice Department's
No. 2 official, Rod Rosenstein, to take over the Russia investigation
after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, whose agency had led the
probe. Mueller has looked into whether Trump's campaign conspired with
Russia and whether the president has unlawfully tried to obstruct the
Trump, facing political peril from the inquiry, has used Twitter,
campaign-style speeches and comments to news media to assail Mueller,
accusing him of running a politically motivated, "rigged witch hunt;"
going "rogue;" surrounding himself with "thugs" and having conflicts of
"It's all a big hoax," Trump said on Friday.
Mueller has been a fixture in American law enforcement for decades and
is considered the architect of the modern FBI, serving as its director
from 2001 to 2013. He was first appointed to the post by Republican
President George W. Bush, then his appointment was extended by Bush's
successor, Democrat Barack Obama.
Mueller took over as Federal Bureau of Investigation director a week
before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States by al Qaeda
militants that killed about 3,000 people. By the time Mueller left the
position, his tenure was exceeded only by J. Edgar Hoover's 48-year
'BOBBY THREE STICKS'
Mueller was known by some as "Bobby Three Sticks" because of his full
name - Robert Mueller III - a moniker that belies his formal bearing and
sober approach to law enforcement.
He was credited with transforming the premier U.S. law enforcement
agency after Congress and an independent government commission
determined the FBI and CIA had failed to share information before the
Sept. 11 attacks that could have helped prevent them. Mueller revamped
the FBI into an agency centered on protecting national security in
addition to law enforcement, putting more resources into
counterterrorism investigations and improving cooperation with other
[to top of second column]
Robert Mueller, as FBI director, listens during a U.S. Senate
Judiciary Committee oversight hearing about the Federal Bureau of
Investigation on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 19, 2013.
REUTERS/Larry Downing/File Photo
He put his career on the line in 2004 when he and Comey, then the
deputy attorney general, threatened to resign when White House
officials sought to reauthorize a domestic eavesdropping program
that the Justice Department had deemed unconstitutional. The two
rushed to a Washington hospital and prevented top Bush aides from
persuading an ailing Attorney General John Ashcroft, recovering from
gall bladder surgery, to reauthorize the surveillance program.
Comey succeeded Mueller as FBI director in 2013.
After graduating from Princeton University, Mueller served in the
Marine Corps during the Vietnam War, leading a rifle platoon and
receiving commendations including the Bronze Star. His became a
federal prosecutor in 1976 and remained in public service until his
FBI retirement, with the exception of a couple of short stints with
He became a U.S. assistant attorney general in 1991 and was a key
player on high-profile federal prosecutions such as the 1992
convictions of former Panamanian leader Manuel Antonio Noriega and
New York Mafia boss John Gotti and the investigation into the 1988
bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
Mueller's Russia investigation already has yielded a series of
guilty pleas and a conviction in the only trial held to date.
Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted on
eight charges and pleaded guilty to two others, receiving a
7-1/2-year prison sentence. Trump's former national security adviser
Michael Flynn, former personal lawyer Michael Cohen and former
campaign aides Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos have entered
guilty pleas. Longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone has pleaded not
guilty to charges.
The big question is whether Mueller will present evidence of
criminal conduct by Trump himself. Such findings could prompt the
Democratic-controlled House of Representatives to begin the
congressional impeachment process laid out in the U.S. Constitution
for removing a president from office for "treason, bribery, or other
high crimes and misdemeanors."
While Trump has hammered away at Mueller, others have defended the
special counsel's integrity, including some formerly associated with
the president such as former White House attorney Ty Cobb.
"I think," Cobb said in an ABC News podcast interview, "Bob Mueller
is an American hero."
(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Bill Trott and Jonathan Oatis)
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