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Mueller pick gives FBI Russia probe veteran hand

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The last time former FBI director James Comey stood up to the White House, Robert Mueller was right beside him, reported Bloomberg (US).

Now Mueller, who on Wednesday was named special counsel in charge of the Justice Department’s probe of Russia’s attempts to manipulate last year’s election, takes over where Comey left off.

The Justice Department official who’s overseeing the probe, Rod Rosenstein, would have been hard-pressed to pick a figure more in step with Comey, who was fired last week as head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation by President Donald Trump.

Mueller, after all, was the FBI Director for more than a decade until Comey replaced him in 2013. Both capped Justice Department careers with stints leading the FBI. Their paths notably intersected in 2004, when both were present at a dramatic hospital bedside standoff over then-President George W. Bush’s domestic surveillance program. Comey later provided testimony about the moment, supported by a memo of the scene written by Mueller, that disputed the White House’s version of events.

Discussions of FBI independence and memo-writing are taking center stage once again. The sprawling investigation that Mueller will inherit may include questions about whether the White House tried to interfere in the FBI’s work. One key issue may be a memo that people familiar with the situation have said Comey wrote after a meeting with Trump. The document, they say, describes the president’s apparent efforts to persuade Comey to stop his investigation of former national security director Michael Flynn, who was caught up in the Russia probe. The White House has denied that the president asked Comey to go easy on Flynn.

“I accept this responsibility and will discharge it to the best of my ability,” Mueller said in a statement after his appointment.
Mueller is not the type to be daunted by the White House or the president, said William McLucas of WilmerHale, the law firm where Mueller worked until stepping down Wednesday.

“I don’t think anyone would even deign to push him or suggest that he should go one way or another," said McLucas. “It would have no effect. He was a Marine captain in Vietnam."

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Former CIA official Phillip Mudd heaped praise upon praise for former FBI Director Robert Mueller, who was just named as special counsel for the investigation into the alleged collusion of the Trump campaign and the Russian government. He made the comments on CNN Wednesday and reported The Blaze (US).

“I understand you know Robert Mueller, you’ve worked with him,” Wolf Blitzer asked. “What do you think?”
“For four and a half years of sitting down the hall from him I saw one two three times a day threaten meetings, personnel meetings, meetings with three attorneys general,” Mudd answered.

“I can tell you, every American who thinks that this is a moment of turmoil, whether they like the president or not, should breathe easy tonight,” he continued. “Robert Mueller is solid ground. I saw presidents, kings, prime ministers, secretaries of state, CIA directors, the former U.S. Attorney in New York said he’s one of the best.”

“He is not one of the best, Robert Mueller,” Mudd emphasized. “He is, the best I ever saw. Leadership, judgement, decision-making, and I know him personally, he would hate me to say this, the man has a heart and a sense of humor.”

“There is nobody better at doggedly pursuing a target without being subjected to any pressures from Congress,” he added, “the president, the media, anybody in the FBI, the attorney general, the deputy attorney general.”
“There is nobody better, Wolf, I can’t say it any clearer,” Mudd concluded.

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Just over a week after President Donald Trump fired James Comey as FBI director, the Department of Justice appointed Comey's predecessor, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, as special counsel for the investigation into Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election, reported CNN (US).

The two former FBI chiefs have a unique relationship, stemming in large part from working side by side during a major confrontation with the Bush administration.
By sheer coincidence, this week marked 10 years since Comey gave his bombshell testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the showdown with President George W. Bush's White House. It began in 2004, when Comey refused to reauthorize an NSA spying program.

Comey was deputy attorney general at the time, and was serving as the acting head of the Justice Department while Attorney General John Ashcroft was in the hospital.
Comey said he had found out that White House chief of staff Andrew Card and White House counsel Alberto Gonzales were headed to Ashcroft's hospital room to get the sick attorney general to OK the program. Comey said he called his chief of staff to get his people to the hospital, and that his second call was to the FBI director.

"I hung up, called Director Mueller, with whom I'd been discussing this particular matter and had been a great help to me over that week -- and told him what was happening," Comey testified in 2007. "He said, 'I'll meet you at the hospital right now.'"
"He's one of the finest people I've ever met," Comey said of Mueller later in the same hearing.
Comey said Mueller had told FBI agents not to let anyone remove Comey from Ashcroft's hospital room "under any circumstances."

Gonzales and Card arrived before Mueller. Comey said they tried to make their case, but Ashcroft refused and deferred to Comey. He said the two left the room, and Mueller arrived shortly after.
In response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit from The New York Times, the government declassified documents revealing Bush made changes to authorize the surveillance program following the hospital incident.

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