Robert Mueller III was under serious consideration for the directorate of the FBI before his appointment as special counsel for the ongoing investigation into possible collusion between Trump associates and Russian officials during last year’s general election.
NPR reports that Mueller met with senior White House and Department of Justice officials about returning as FBI director after James Comey’s abrupt dismissal. Mueller previously led the agency from 2001 to 2013. He fell out of contention after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein approached him about taking over the Russia probe.
Though Congress sanctioned a short extension of his term, the FBI director’s tenure is carefully proscribed, in order to avoid a concentration of power of the sort which occurred during J. Edgar Hoover’s long and controversial reign over the agency.
Still, that Mueller was seriously considered for the post at all underscores the intense political pressure the White House faced after Comey’s dismissal, and his own status as one of the capital’s essential figures.
Mueller is a widely respected figure in Washington D.C. who has served in the administrations of Republican and Democratic presidents. He joined the Justice Department during the first Bush administration as an assistant to Attorney General Richard Thornburgh. In the following years, he became chief of the department’s criminal division, where he oversaw the prosecutions of deposed Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega and mafia don John Gotti. President Bill Clinton appointed Mueller U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California in 1998.
He remained with DOJ until President George W. Bush appointed him director of the FBI, just one week before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He would remain at the helm of the agency until 2013 — President Obama asked Mueller to stay on for a short time past the conclusion of his 10 year term.
Former assistant FBI director Ron Hosko, who led FBI’s criminal investigative devision near the end of Mueller’s tenure, told The Daily Caller News Foundation that Mueller commanded respect and admiration throughout the Bureau’s ranks.
“He was widely respected, even if you disagreed with him or differed with his style,” he said. “He was trusted to do the right thing, to drive toward the truth. He was always pushing the organization forward.”