On Wednesday, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it appointed Robert Mueller to act as a special counsel overseeing an ongoing investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. The case may ultimately uncover evidence that individuals within the Trump administration colluded with Russia, so one important question is: What are Robert Mueller’s partisan leanings?
Mueller served as the FBI director before James Comey. He was appointed by President George Bush and took office just a week before the 9/11 terrorist attacks; he is known to have overseen the FBI’s revitalization of its counterterrorism efforts. Mueller served for 12 years, two more than usual, because President Barack Obama secured an extension of his term limit, saying that Mueller had “set the gold standard for leading the bureau.”
Technically, FBI directors aren’t supposed to be partisan. Mueller has a remarkable record of support on both sides of the aisle — he worked for the administrations under President Clinton, President Bush, and President Obama — so he’s likely to be a fair overseer of the investigation. Still, everyone has political bias: Which way does his lean?
As of 2001, Mueller was registered as a Republican. Since leaving the FBI in 2013, Mueller has worked at the law firm WilmerHale, most of whose lawyers lean to the left, although recently that has changed slightly.
As with many top officials in law enforcement, Mueller hasn’t always been a staunch defender of individual liberties. He defended an infamous incident in Ruby Ridge, Idaho in 1992, in which FBI officials killed an unarmed woman holding a baby in her arms. As FBI director, he oversaw massive surveillance of American citizens, including the targeted surveillance of minorities. He helped create a DOJ policy allowing federal prosecutors to interrogate unrepresented defendants, which is illegal under California state law.
Mueller is often called independent and apolitical, refrains that are echoing again in the wake of this news.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has been in charge of the investigation since Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself on March 2, released a statement saying, “Based upon the unique circumstances, the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command.” Of course, a special counsel isn’t totally independent, because Mueller will still answer to Rosenstein and can be fired by him at any time.
Many people already seem convinced that Mueller will indict President Donald Trump. Just minutes after Rosenstein made the announcement, a user made an edit to Mueller’s Wikipedia page:
Mueller is expected to resign from WilmerHale to oversee the investigation.Photos via Wikipedia, Getty Images / Andrew Burton