E-mails from England: Last week I received a rather melancholy note from a friend in England. He was not looking forward to the day ahead:
“We are gearing up for the visit of Trump. Sadly I have to be in London tomorrow so I hope that his presence doesn’t affect my travel plans! He is in Brussels today probably falling out with NATO and has said that he’d rather be meeting Putin than Teresa May. The man continues to amaze me.”
To which I replied, referencing the ongoing investigation of the special prosecutor:
“Dreams of what Robert Mueller might have brighten our spirits these days. Sorry that Trump has to stop by your country. I guess it’s tough to fly Air Force One directly into Moscow. But I’m sure Putin will be able to work it out.
“Maybe Mueller hasn’t had any press conferences or sent out any tweets because he just hasn’t found anything or there really isn’t anything to find. Or maybe not.
And he responded with this:
“I do hope that Mr. Mueller is doing his job quietly and diligently, ensuring that he has proof and evidence before going public.
In this noisy world, the silence surrounding the Mueller investigation is truly amazing. A few months ago, for our sister paper the Princeton Echo, I dove into the Mueller archives at Princeton University’s Mudd Library to find out a little more about the former FBI director now serving as special counsel investigating possible Russian ties to the Trump campaign. The first tranche of Mueller records I obtained painted a portrait of a man who would have a hard time getting a term paper completed, let alone organizing and maintaining a complex criminal investigation.
The speckled academic record of Robert S. Mueller included several letters to his parents, advising them of his son’s bad grades; a notice to repeat a course in summer school; an order to re-take a comprehensive exam in his major and to re-submit his senior thesis in order to qualify for his bachelor’s degree, a year after the rest of his class had graduated.
As the assistant dean of the college noted in an judiciously worded letter of recommendation, “Robert Mueller was not a very good student in college, but I would estimate that he would prove to be a very able man in any job he undertakes of a non-academic nature. At college he was popular and well thought of. Of his character, gentlemanliness, and patriotism, I have the very highest opinion.”
At this point, lest people hoping for a return of law and order to the country give up all hope, let me assure everyone that the academic record above pertains to Robert S. Mueller Jr., Princeton Class of 1938, not his son, Robert S. Mueller III, Class of 1966.
And there are other Princeton ties to the Mueller family. Bob Mueller, the lackadaisical student, was in fact a popular guy, elected class president three times and vice president once. He was on both the hockey and the lacrosse teams, served in the Navy during World War II, and then became a successful salesman with Dupont. He and his growing family, including Robert III, the oldest of five children, moved to Princeton in the 1950s so that he could commute to Dupont’s New York office. He later did precious metals marketing and ran Tugwell Mueller Associates.
The Muellers lived at 158 Springdale, 120 Winant Road, and 49 Balcort Drive. Young Bob attended Princeton Day School, then located on Broadmead, near the football stadium, before heading off to St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire. Mueller III entered and graduated with the Class of 1966 at Princeton, played hockey and lacrosse, was a member of Cottage Club, one of the most prestigious clubs on Prospect Avenue, and wrote his senior thesis on “The Case Between the Union of South Africa and Liberia Before the International Court of Justice.” In the Nassau Herald, the senior class book, Mueller III identified himself as a Republican.
As an undergraduate Mueller III must have had some gravitas. A friend of mine from the Class of 1968 bickered into Cottage Club, and recalls the introductory lunch at the club to which he and the other new sophomore members were invited. As my friend, sitting next to Mueller, introduced himself to “Mr. Mueller” he managed to let his necktie fall into the soup. “You can call me Bob,” Mueller replied, and then proceeded to help the sophomore clean up his necktie.
Mueller’s post-graduation plan was to teach for a year and then go to medical school. But when a Princeton alumnus from the Class of 1965 died in Vietnam, Mueller enlisted in the Marines and led a rifle platoon in Vietnam, receiving the Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals, the Purple Heart, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. Returning to civilian life, he earned a law degree at the University of Virginia.
According to his official biography on the FBI website, Mueller served 12 years in United States Attorney’s Offices, first in the Northern District of California in San Francisco, where he was chief of its criminal division. In 1982 he moved to Boston as an assistant U.S. Attorney, prosecuting financial fraud, terrorist, and public corruption cases, as well as narcotics conspiracies and international money launderers.
Mueller was in private practice with a Boston law firm before returning to public service in 1989, when he was appointed as an assistant to Attorney General Richard L. Thornburgh. In 1990 he was placed in charge of the Justice Department’s criminal division. After another private law firm stint, with Boston’s Hale and Dorr, specializing in complex white collar crime litigation, Mueller was named senior litigator in the homicide section of the District of Columbia U.S. Attorney’s Office. In 1998 Mueller was appointed U.S. Attorney in San Francisco.
Mueller took over as director of the FBI on September 4, 2001, one week before the terror attacks. “When I first came on board, I thought I had a fair idea of what to expect. But the September 11 attacks altered every expectation,” Mueller said at a farewell ceremony at FBI headquarters to honor his 12 years as director, the longest term since J. Edgar Hoover. As noted on the FBI website, Mueller “reshaped the bureau from a traditional law enforcement agency to a threat-focused, intelligence-based national security organization.”
To me the resume — Mueller III’s resume — suggests that he can handle the job of the Russia investigation.
I reminded my correspondent in England about our recent history:
“One of the most successful things on Trump’s resume is his time as a reality TV host. As other Trump followers have documented, a good way to understand the man is through the lens of reality TV. So we can expect him to create crises at every turn to confuse us and madden us, but to force us to tune in again.
“Next week he’ll create a new flurry of ‘news’ with Putin. NATO will be in the rear view mirror.
“Of course it’s one thing to yank the chains of us adults, but it’s really unconscionable to harm innocent children (as in the current immigration ‘crisis’) just to maintain the daily headlines for your reality show. So I’m hoping that Mueller hasn’t been distracted by the show.
“Hopefully this is our darkest hour.”
Later that day a news story broke: Indictments had been handed down against 12 Russian military intelligence officers, accused of hacking the Clinton campaign, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and the Democratic National Committee. It’s a quiet but steady drum beat.