By Roxanne Roberts | The Washington Publish
Mueller. Mueller. Mueller. Mueller. Mueller. Mueller. All over the place, at any hour, it’s Mueller time.
Particular counsel Robert Swan Mueller III is the second-most famous man in Washington. Time Journal simply ranked him No. three on their Individual of the Yr listing, after crusading journalists and President Donald Trump. It is unattainable to spend a day in this city with out listening to or studying Mueller’s identify. He’ll go down in historical past, for higher or worse, as one of many pivotal figures of the Trump period.
All this for a man who seldom speaks and is not often seen. He is omnipresent and absent, inescapable but elusive, the invisible yang to Trump’s gold-plated yin.
“Mueller’s silence has invited noisy speculation from partisans,” writes Time. “To critics on the right, he is an overzealous prosecutor drunk on power and roaming beyond his mandate in a bid to drum Trump out of office. To liberals, he is a crusading hero who won’t quit until he brings the President to justice. The public narrative of Mueller’s investigation this year has often described its central character more as myth than man.”
Such is the peculiar nature of Washington that a highly effective man who shuns the highlight ought to grow to be an object of fascination, and the precise character of Mueller — an old-school WASP detached to entreaties for speeches, interviews and photo-ops. Extra individuals have seen Robert De Niro enjoying Mueller on “Saturday Night Live” than have seen the particular counsel himself.
“I always joke that Bob Mueller has turned down more interview requests in his career than most people in Washington ever get in the first place,” says Garrett Graff, writer of “The Threat Matrix: Inside Robert Mueller’s FBI and the War on Global Terror” and Mueller’s de facto biographer. “Contrary to every single thing that the president tweets today, Mueller is and always has been probably the most apolitical nonpartisan person in the city. He does everything that he can to avoid the public spotlight and anything even slightly resembling politicking.”
Mueller is content material to be recognized and revered inside a really small circle of shut associates and colleagues. That’s uncommon in a city crammed with former highschool class presidents with sufficient egos to “float battleships,” as former Sen. Alan Simpson put it. Politicians love cameras — and Twitter feeds, Instagram and extra — but Mueller’s solely public assertion as particular counsel got here on Might 17, 2017, the day he was appointed: “I accept this responsibility and will discharge it to the best of my ability.”
‘Not how Bob Mueller works’
Greater than something, silence has come to outline Mueller. He’s turn into a meme, a cartoon superhero or supervillain, extra highly effective with each phrase he doesn’t say.
“Like all the FBI directors I have known, including myself, Bob is not about to try his case or run his evidence by the court of public opinion,” says William Webster, the one man to go each the FBI and the CIA. “That’s not how our FBI works. It’s not how Bob Mueller works. It might make for good TV ratings, but it leaves too much open for misunderstanding and, in my opinion, creates a circus atmosphere around critically important cases.”
Kenneth Starr, the unbiased counsel investigating President Invoice Clinton, had a special strategy: He spoke to reporters throughout his 5 years in that job in hopes it might assist People higher perceive the explanations for the investigation.
“Relationships between prosecutors and the press are inherently difficult and sensitive,” he says. “A federal prosecutor wields important powers and thus should always be held accountable by the American people. That accountability carries with it, in my view, a role for providing public information … without transgressing important limitations — especially the protection of grand jury secrecy.”
Mueller, says Starr, might have been chastened by former FBI director James Comey’s “inappropriate public relations approach” and needs the charging paperwork to talk for themselves. “All things considered, I think he has followed a wise strategy, albeit at the expense of a more complete public understanding of his important work.”
Leon Panetta, former White Home chief of employees and head of the CIA, says there’s one more reason for Mueller’s silence: He doesn’t need to give Trump any ammunition that would compromise the case. “He really feels that the integrity of the investigation has to be protected and not allow the president to undermine it.”
Mueller is not instinctively anyone who performs the political recreation, says Panetta, who’ve recognized one another for years. “He didn’t even particularly like to testify before Congress, but he knew that he had to do it. He really thought that those who were out there in the press were only undercutting their position rather than strengthening it.”
The truth is, Mueller — by temperament and professional expertise — has all the time most popular to be judged by his deeds, not his phrases. He grew up in Princeton, a childhood of privilege and personal boarding faculties, the place self-aggrandizement and promotion have been thought-about poor type. His stints as a Marine platoon chief in the course of the Vietnam Conflict and as a federal prosecutor emphasised teamwork relatively than any particular person effort. Throughout his 12-year tenure as head of the FBI, he not often appeared at public occasions and turned down nearly all of the A-list invites that got here with that title.
Throughout his journey to the Capitol to temporary Congress in June 2017 — one month after turning into particular counsel — Mueller and his staff navigated again hallways and stairwells to keep away from the media. There have been solely three extensively circulated sightings in the wild since then: One photograph of Mueller standing on a road nook in March, one in July with Mueller and Donald Trump Jr. each ready to catch a flight at Gate 35X at Reagan Nationwide Airport and one among Mueller and his spouse in September on the Genius Bar in Georgetown’s Apple retailer, the place they have been getting assist with a laptop computer.
The dearth of photographs led to this plea by Slate employees author Heather Schwedel earlier this yr: “Why are we clamoring for new Mueller pics like paparazzi stalking Jennifer Aniston? Because every time his investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election makes news — which is a lot these days — sites like Slate must use the same photos of Mueller we’ve been using since this past summer. … Our nation’s poor photo editors are stuck with a cache of boring, already-used shots of one of the most newsworthy figures of our political moment.”
Tightest ship in Washington
By now, it goes with out saying that Mueller and his prosecutors run the tightest ship in Washington. No interviews, no leaks, no whispers, no jokes, no nuthin’. In August, members of his group have been noticed by the press ready for a Shake Shack supply at an Alexandria lodge throughout Paul Manafort’s trial. Shake Shack, huh? joked a reporter. Peter Carr, Mueller’s spokesman, wouldn’t even affirm the order.
Mueller not often ventures outdoors his momentary workplace in a nondescript federal constructing. Even in his most public position earlier than this, as head of the FBI, Mueller solely appeared in public when it was necessary to the bureau. A lot of the photographs of him are from testimony to the Senate a number of years in the past. His final talking look (introduced earlier than he was named particular counsel) was in Might 2017 on the commencement of his granddaughter from a small boarding faculty in Massachusetts.
“One of the things that I think is important in understanding him is understanding the perspective that he brings to this job,” says Graff. “If you got him in a moment of candor, he would say that this is no more than the third-hardest job that he has ever had after the Marines in Vietnam and after being FBI director in the wake of 9/11. In that sense, the photo of him at the Apple Store is indicative of a lot: He’s just continuing to lead his life. His life has always been under the radar and non-showy, and that’s exactly how he has comported himself as special counsel.”
Mueller’s personal life is much more circumspect. It is potential, after following the bread crumbs of his biography, to find out his comings and goings. He lives in a gated group in Georgetown together with his spouse of 52 years, Ann. They’ve two daughters, Melissa and Cynthia, seen solely once they attended his 2001 affirmation listening to as head of the FBI. The couple repeatedly attends providers at an Episcopal church in downtown Washington. They each play golf, though Ann’s the higher golfer of the 2.
They usually have a weekly dinner date, often at their favourite Italian restaurant a number of miles from their residence. The Muellers have been regulars for years, sometimes sitting unnoticed behind the bar in the again of the room. How, in this age of smartphones and cameras, does Mueller pull that off? Slip in a aspect door? The proprietor, as did everybody contacted for this text, declined to remark.
Actually, nearly everybody inside Mueller’s orbit refused to speak about him. “I’ll pass along your request, but she never returns calls about Mueller,” defined the assistant of a lawyer who labored for him a few years in the past.
“The people that he has surrounded himself with throughout his career are temperamentally very like him,” explains Graff. “And he has a good set of longtime friends in D.C. that he primarily socializes with. He’s someone who draws a pretty firm line between work and home in terms of socializing. Part of the answer is just that the people around him don’t share the things that they do with him. And he has developed a series of places that he likes to go where I think that privacy is respected — and they’re also not the trendiest restaurants on 14th Street where he would be recognized.”
Even the press has been unwilling to cross Mueller’s invisible line. Salt Lake Tribune reporter Thomas Burr tweeted that he noticed Mueller in June: “Gotta love DC. Walk into restaurant, run into the special counsel.” But Burr declined to say which restaurant, regardless of a flurry of responses to the tweet.
A few of this is respect for Mueller. A few of this is the worry of unintentionally offering a bit of data that would compromise the Russia investigation. And a few of this is simply worry for Mueller himself. Given the heated rhetoric surrounding Trump — and a gunman who shot up Comet Ping Pong over the Pizzagate conspiracy concept — pals and colleagues are reluctant to say something that would hurt him in any method.
“Bob Mueller is doing exactly the right thing by simply focusing on this investigation and trying to determine the truth,” says Panetta. “I don’t know what the final result is going to be, but I have a sense that whatever that final report shows that people are going to thank Bob Mueller for the way he handled this.”
We requested Mueller’s spokesman if he had a response to … nicely, something.
“We appreciate your reaching out,” replied Carr. “But we’ll decline comment at this time.”