The Department of Justice has appointed Robert Mueller to serve as special counsel in the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election.
This pick was announced on Wednesday evening, and the selection comes from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Rosenstein said in a letter on Wednesday that Mueller will be investigating “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.”
So who exactly is Robert Mueller? Here’s what you need to know about him.
1. He Served as Director of the FBI For 12 Years
Robert Mueller is a former director of the FBI.
Mueller was nominated to the position of FBI director in July 2001. The following month, the Senate voted unanimously to confirm him.
Mueller officially became FBI director on September 4th, 2001. As FBI directors serve for 10 years, Mueller’s term was set to expire in September 2011. However, President Barack Obama actually asked Mueller to stay on for an additional two years, and Mueller agreed to do so.
In 2013, Mueller was replaced by James Comey. After leaving the FBI, Mueller began working at the private law firm WilmerHale.
Robert Mueller was originally nominated to his FBI position under a Republican president, and according to a Washington Post article from July 2001, he is a registered Republican himself. However, he is not considered to be a political figure.
In fact, during Robert Mueller’s 2001 confirmation hearing, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin praised him.
“I am very impressed with your credentials, and I am certain that I speak for the vast majority of senators, Democrat and Republican,” Durbin said. “We feel that you are the right person for the job, and it is a big job. We met in my office to talk about some aspects of it, and in a very brief time, I was impressed by your candor and your insight.”
2. He Served in the Marine Corps During the Vietnam War
Robert Mueller is a military veteran.
In the 1970s, Mueller served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. He enlisted shortly after graduating from Princeton.
In an interview with the University of Virginia School of Law, Mueller said that he followed in the footsteps of a close friend.
“I have been very lucky,” he said. “I always felt I should spend some time paying it back. One of the reasons I went into the Marine Corps was because we lost a very good friend, a Marine in Vietnam, who was a year ahead of me at Princeton. There were a number of us who felt we should follow his example and at least go into the service. And it flows from there.”
By the time Robert Mueller left the Marine Corps, he had earned a Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and two Navy commendation medals.
3. He Worked in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts & Was U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California
After graduating from the University of Virginia Law School, Mueller spent some time working for the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California in San Francisco, soon becoming chief of the criminal division.
Then, in 1982, Mueller became assistant U.S. attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts. From 1986 to 1987, he briefly served as acting United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts.
In 1989, Mueller began working in the U.S. Department of Justice as an assistant to Attorney General Dick Thornburgh.
Robert Mueller subsequently spent several years working in private practice. He then became senior litigator in the District of Columbia United States Attorney’s Office’s homicide section.
Finally, in 1998, Mueller began serving as United States Attorney for the Northern District of California. He held this position until 2001, when he became the director of the FBI.
Mueller has said that he takes great satisfaction in bringing criminals to justice, especially in murder cases.
“Doing homicides, the victim’s family was always present in your mind,” he told the Virginia Law Review. “You’re trying to find and bring justice to them. Working as an assistant U.S. attorney, I’ve seen how people think that they can get away with things and skirt the law. Bringing them to justice is tremendous satisfaction.”
4. He Threatened to Resign if President Bush Did Not Alter the Wiretapping Program
While he was serving as director of the FBI, Robert Mueller once threatened to resign.
This came in 2004, not long after the Justice Department found that domestic wiretapping without a warrant was unconstitutional. Robert Mueller, along with then Deputy Attorney General James Comey, threatened to resign if President Bush overruled this Justice Department finding.
According to The Washington Post, in March 2004, Attorney General John Ashcroft was in intensive care, and White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales and Chief of Staff Andrew Card Jr. planned to convince him to reauthorize the program. This is what lead Mueller and Comey to threaten to resign.
“The sickbed visit was the start of a dramatic showdown between the White House and the Justice Department in early 2004 that, according to Comey, was resolved only when Bush overruled Gonzales and Card,” The Washington Post reported. “But that was not before Ashcroft, Comey, Mueller and their aides prepared a mass resignation, Comey said. The domestic spying by the National Security Agency continued for several weeks without Justice approval, he said.”
Ultimately, President Bush decided to change the wiretapping program to address the Department of Justice’s concerns.
In the years since, Mueller has generally defended domestic surveillance programs and has pushed back on the idea that civil liberties have been inappropriately encroached upon.
“Do we exchange information in ways we did not before? Absolutely,” Mueller told CNN in 2013. “You can say that that is a — to the extent that you exchange information between CIA, FBI, NSA and the like — you could characterize that as somehow giving up liberties. But the fact of the matter is, it’s understandable and absolutely necessary if you want to protect the security of the United States. ”
5. The Pick Has Earned Widespread Praise
The pick of Robert Mueller as special counsel has received almost universal praise.
House Republican Jason Chaffetz, who recently said he would be subpoenaing James Comey’s notes on his meetings with Donald Trump, praised the pick and said that Mueller has impeccable credentials.
Democrats, too, have reacted positively to the news. Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier said on CNN on Wednesday that the choice is “remarkable” and that Mueller has an “impeccable” background. Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal said that Mueller is as good a pick as Democrats could possibly hope for.
Senator Bernie Sanders said that Mueller’s appointment is a positive step.
And Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that Mueller is exactly the right kind of person to lead the investigation.
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