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Robert Mueller, Former F.B.I. Director, Is Named Special Counsel for Russia Investigation

Mr. Mueller is viewed in both parties as one of the most credible law enforcement officials in the country. He served both Democratic and Republican presidents, from 2001 to 2013, and was asked by President Barack Obama to stay on beyond the normal 10-year term until Mr. Comey was appointed.

The appointment is certain to soothe nerves at the F.B.I., where agents have felt under siege by Mr. Trump’s abrupt firing of Mr. Comey and his repeated criticism of their investigation into Russian interference in the election.

Analysts and agents who have briefed Mr. Mueller tell some variation of the same story to show how exacting and relentlessly detail-oriented he is. The story involves a surveillance operation, with agents tailing a suspect in a car. Mr. Mueller is known to ask all the predictable questions about the suspect, and then pounce with, “What color is the car?”

In some tellings, the briefer responds, “Red,” only to be asked, “What shade?”

He is known inside the F.B.I. for that gruff, exacting management style — and for saving the institution. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, there were calls to break up the F.B.I. and create a separate domestic intelligence agency. Mr. Mueller, who came to the agency just one week before the attacks, beat back those efforts and is credited with building the modern F.B.I. He led the investigations into Al Qaeda while simultaneously transforming the agency into a key part of the national security infrastructure.



OPEN Document

Document: Rod Rosenstein’s Letter Appointing Mueller Special Counsel


“He’s an absolutely superb choice,” said Kathryn Ruemmler, a former prosecutor and White House counsel under Mr. Obama. “He will just do a completely thorough investigation without regard to public pressure or political pressure.”

She added: “I cannot think of a better choice.”

John S. Pistole, who served as the F.B.I.’s deputy director under Mr. Mueller, also praised the appointment.

“You need an independent assessment of what the president has done, how he has done it and perhaps why he has done it,” said Mr. Pistole, who is now president of Anderson University in Indiana. “The appointment of Director Mueller is exactly what is needed to attempt to bring credibility to the White House when there are so many questions about the president’s actions and motives.”

The order to appoint Mr. Mueller was signed by Mr. Rosenstein on Wednesday, drawing on a regulation granting the attorney general the authority to appoint a special counsel for only the second time in history. The first time it was used was in 1999 by Janet Reno, who appointed Jack Danforth, a former Republican senator from Missouri, to lead an investigation into the botched federal raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Tex., in 1993 that killed 76 people.

In his capacity as special counsel, Mr. Mueller will be able to request additional resources for the investigation. Those requests will be reviewed by Lee Lofthus, assistant attorney general for administration.

Mr. Mueller is expected to announce his resignation from the law firm WilmerHale.

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