US & Canada

Robert Mueller: 'Ramrod straight' ex-FBI boss to lead Russia inquiry

Robert Mueller, file pic 2013 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Robert Mueller, described as 'no-nonsense' and 'straight-laced', ran the FBI for 12 years

A decorated Vietnam veteran credited with turning round the FBI after the 9/11 attacks, Robert Mueller has been hailed by both Republicans and Democrats as a strong choice to lead the Trump-Russia investigation.

He has been named as special counsel to oversee the inquiry into alleged Russian interference in the November 2016 presidential election, including possible co-ordination between Russia and members of the Trump campaign.

He has also been instructed to look into any obstruction of the probe itself.

Robert Mueller III - to use the full name that has earned him the moniker "Bobby Three Sticks" - served as FBI director for 12 years under Presidents George W Bush and Barack Obama, making him the longest-serving bureau chief since J Edgar Hoover (director from 1935 to 1972).

Read more

He took over the bureau in 2001, just a week before the 9/11 attacks, and found himself tasked with restoring the agency's reputation after it and the CIA were found to have failed to share information on the threat.

Described as "no-nonsense" and "straitlaced", Mr Mueller has stood his ground in a showdown with a previous US president.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Mueller was appointed FBI chief by George W Bush just a week before the 9/11 attacks

In 2004, George W Bush tried to reinstate a post 9/11 programme that allowed wiretapping without a court warrant, which the justice department had determined was not legal.

Mr Mueller, the then-Deputy Attorney General James Comey (Mr Mueller's successor at the FBI until he was sacked by President Trump in May 2017), and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft are widely reported to have threatened to resign en masse, backing down only when Mr Bush made changes to the programme.

Mr Mueller and Mr Comey - who was leading the FBI inquiry into alleged Russia interference in last year's election until his sacking - were close allies at the time, according to author Garrett Graf, who has written a biography of Mr Mueller.

'No axe to grind'

The 72-year-old Princeton graduate was no stranger to high-stakes cases even before he took the helm of the FBI.

During a stint heading the justice department's criminal division from 1990 to 1993, he oversaw the investigation into the 1988 Pan Am airline bombing over Lockerbie in Scotland and the drug case against former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Mueller (right), kept on by former President Barack Obama, enjoys strong bipartisan support

He is also known for leading the probe into the 1991 collapse of the Luxembourg-registered Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI).

Mr Mueller joined the Marines in 1968, leading a platoon in the Vietnam War, before completing a law degree at the University of Virginia in 1973.

He began his law career at a private firm in San Francisco in 1973, before entering public service in 1976 as an assistant US attorney in San Francisco.

Although he has mainly been appointed into posts by Republican administrations, he enjoys strong bipartisan support, and was kept on as FBI director for an extra two years by President Barack Obama.

Long-time colleague David Kris has described him as "experienced, knowledgeable, capable" and "utterly incorruptible".

"He cannot be intimidated. At this stage in his career, he has nothing to prove, no reputation to burnish, no axe to grind. He is ramrod straight in his integrity," he wrote on the Brookings Institute's Lawfare blog.

White shirts

More recently Mr Mueller has worked for the private firm WilmerHale, which is reported to have counted Mr Trump's daughter Ivanka, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, and his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort among its clients.

The firm said Mr Mueller would step down immediately and told Politico that Mr Mueller had not been involved with any of those representations.

While at the firm, he has played a lead role in the settlement of US litigation stemming from the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal.

He is known as "very straight and narrow," Mr Graf told NPR.

"He was famous in the FBI for always wearing a white shirt, dark suit and red or blue tie and would question any of his staff who showed up in the office not wearing a white shirt just like him."

Related Topics

More on this story