Before Robert Mueller was named to serve as special counsel to oversee the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, he had his hands full with a scandal in the National Football League.
Mueller, who served as the director of the F.B.I. from 2001 until 2013, was chosen to spearhead an investigation into the NFL’s handling of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and the assault of his wife, Janay Palmer.
Rice and Palmer were arrested after an assault incident in an elevator at Revel Casino in Atlantic City. The couple were taken into police custody late February 15, 2014 and summoned to appear in court.
The Atlantic City Police Department released a statement after the incident saying they reviewed surveillance footage that showed Rice and Palmer “involved in a physical altercation.” It said that both of them “struck each other with their hands.”
After the incident, Rice was suspended two games by the NFL. That stuck until TMZ Sports released footage of the elevator assault a few months later in September.
After the video surfaced, the Ravens cut Rice, and his suspension by the NFL was changed from two games to and “indefinit” ban from the league. Rice hasn’t played another game in the NFL since.
Public outcry ensued about how the NFL, knowing what happened in the elevator, suspended Rice for only two games until the video leaked. That was compounded when it was reported by the Associated Press that the league had actually received the footage before making the decision to suspend him for two games.
That led the league to launch an independent investigation and get to the bottom of the matter, selecting Mueller to do so.
Mueller released his finalized, 96-page report in January 2015. To read the full document, check below:
Here’s what you need to know about Mueller and the Rice/NFL investigation:
1. Mueller Was Selected to Investigate the Incident in 2014
After the video showing the gruesome incident at the Atlantic City casino surfaced, there was outrage at the NFL’s handling of the matter. Because of the outcry, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell decided that the only way to get their image back was to hire an independent investigator into the matter.
Goodell and the league opted to select Mueller to head the investigation to determine what the NFL did — and didn’t — know about the case.
The NFL released a statement after the video surfaced that said they were left in the dark about the footage, but vowwed to get to the bottom of it.
We have no knowledge of this. We are not aware of anyone in our office who possessed or saw the video before it was made public on Monday. We will look into it.
2. Mueller’s Report Concluded That the NFL Didn’t See the Video of Rice Assaulting His Wife
Mueller’s report on the investigation concluded that Goodell and the NFL didn’t in fact see the tape showing Rice assaulting his wife on the elevator.
That’s despite the AP report that said a female employee in the league office received the video. The AP heard a 12-second voicemail April 9, 2014 that confirmed that the video was received.
The investigation by Mueller went to great lengths to find out if the AP report was true or not. Investigators spoke with 50 employees from the NFL that potentially had knowledge of it an rummaged through emails that didn’t show any sign that the employees in at the league’s office saw it.
We assembled a database of every call placed on April 9 from the NFL’s main number — 1,583 calls to 1,050 unique telephone numbers in total. … As part of that effort, we asked each NFL employee from whose extension calls were placed to identify the person they called. The employees identified NFL vendors, former players, nearby restaurants, doctors’ offices, family members, and the like. We then validated that information by calling each person or entity identified. Through this process, we ultimately called all 938 numbers and found no unexplained or unidentified calls from the League on April 9 that reasonably could have been a call acknowledging receipt of the in-elevator video.
3. Mueller’s Report Found the NFL Didn’t Do a Number of Important Things
The report found that once word spread Rice had assaulted his wife, the NFL failed to contact police officers that responded to and investigated the incident. The league also didn’t contact the prosecutors in Atlantic City and didn’t bother to try and obtain security footage from the evening.
In addition to those things, the NFL didn’t ever go back to prosecutors or the hotel to see if more information was readily available.
The casino and the Ravens were each knowledgable about what took place inside the elevator — even without the video — but Mueller concluded that the NFL “didn’t deem it necessary to check with them.”
4. Mueller Found That the Ravens Held Back Information From the League
Mueller’s report basically found that the NFL was negligent in its handling of the incident, but it also said that the Ravens weren’t completely blameless for leaving the league in the dark.
When the NFL launched its independent investigation into the matter, Mueller said that the Ravens never came forward with important materials it was in possession of.
Those materials include information about what the security footage showed, as well as information that Rice’s lawyer had the tape.
Mueller said in his report that the Ravens would have complied with the league had they asked for the information, but the organization was partly at fault for not willingly coming forward to the league with it.
Indeed, both Sanders and (Ravens owner Richard) Cass stated that if the League had asked them directly for information, they would have responded to the League’s request. That said, the Ravens possessed this information and well understood that the events inside the elevator were under League investigation. They should have shared with the League information critical to its investigation.
5. Mueller Was Accused of Having a Conflict of Interest In the Matter
A report by The Boston Globe accused Mueller of having a conflict of interest “despite (his) long and impressive career.”
Previously, Mueller worked as a partner at WilmerHale, a law firm in Washington D.C. A good amount of former attorneys at the firm also reportedly had ties to the NFL.
The Globe said that experience demonstrates “an enormous conflict of interest regarding any investigation involving the NFL.”
WilmerHale once represented the NFL in negotiations with DirecTV about its “Sunday Ticket” package. The report added that three former lawyers from WilmerHale worked for the NFL, including the second-highest ranking league lawyer — Jay Bauman. One of the others was Cass, who worked at the firm for over 30 years before heading to the Ravens as their president in 2004.