The Justice Department just appointed Robert Mueller to serve as a special prosecutor overseeing the investigation into Russia’s suspected attempts to meddle in last year’s presidential election.
The intelligence community has concluded that Russia is behind the cyberattacks targeting the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign that led to thousands of private emails being published on the website WikiLeaks. Those hacks, according to U.S. officials, sought to hurt Clinton and help Donald Trump win the presidency.
Mueller, a former director of the FBI, takes on the probe at a contentious time in Washington and for Trump’s Justice Department. Just over a week ago, President Donald Trump abruptly fired the sitting FBI director, James Comey, whose agency had also been investigating any links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
Now, Trump is under fire in the wake of allegations that Trump had asked Comey to shut down the FBI’s probe into one of his campaign associates, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, prompting some critics to say he was obstructing justice.
Who is he?
Mueller, 72, served as director of the FBI from 2001 to 2013, after a stint as deputy attorney general earlier in 2001. A George W. Bush appointee, he was confirmed to lead the FBI by a 98-0 vote in the Senate and assumed the post just a week before the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11.
Mueller attended Princeton University, New York University and the University of Virginia’s law school. Before his time leading the FBI, he served in posts including U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts; assistant attorney general under George H.W. Bush, leading the Justice Department’s criminal division; and U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California.
Mueller served in the Bush Justice Department at the same time as Comey, who was deputy attorney general from 2003 to 2005. Mueller stayed on as FBI director for an additional two years after the end of his 10-year term, until 2013, when Barack Obama picked Comey to succeed him.
When Obama announced his intention to keep Mueller on as FBI director in 2011, an unusual move, he described him as having “set the gold standard for leading the bureau.”
“Given the ongoing threats facing the United States, as well as the leadership transitions at other agencies like the Defense Department and Central Intelligence Agency, I believe continuity and stability at the FBI is critical at this time,” Obama said at the time.
Mueller’s 12 years as FBI director made him the longest-serving person in the post since J. Edgar Hoover.
Mueller was with the Bush Justice Department when there was a high-profile dispute involving Comey and other administration officials over a domestic surveillance program.
What does Mueller do now?
A lawyer, Mueller is expected to resign from the private law firm WilmerHale, which he joined as a partner in 2014.
He also made several visits to Stanford as a consulting professor and lecturer over the course of the year following his departure from the FBI.