Robert Mueller: The Man and the Myth

Who is Robert Mueller really? The avuncular gentleman pictured virtually every night on the mainstream media looking determined and resolute. Or someone else? You may think “Asked and Answered” if you read SA’s initial post on him way back on June 26, 2017 “The Two Bags of Robert Mueller.” But there’s more to the story. Appointed FBI Director by Republican Prez George W. in 2001 (one week before 9/11), and remaining in that post through two Bush terms and the first term of Republican-light (Democrat) President Obama, he has finally made it into big-time stardom with his present gig —Special Prosecutor —taking on the mantle of the great hope of establishment democrats and LINOs (liberals in name only) still licking their (mostly self-inflicted) wounds after the drubbing they took in 2016.

For once the political rapture is bi-partisan. One Republican congressman pointed to Mueller’s “impeccable credentials.” (Jason Chaffetz) A characterization seconded by Brian Williams whose bromance with the Special Prosecutor was on display as he fawned over his resume: “played 3 sports in prep school [no public education for this extraordinary dude], captain of all three, served in Vietnam, was wounded [58,000 American soldiers were killed in that misbegotten war], [awarded] a Bronze Star and a purple heart.” Exactly how that makes him the right man for the job of deposing Trump (despite all the lofty rhetorical posturing, his real mission) is never mentioned but hey some things don’t have to be spelled out, do they? The rest of the media are rushing to one-up Brian. Let’s start with the gang at Morning Joe, reliable practitioners of over-the-top rhetoric. On May 17, 2017, shortly after Mueller’s appointment was announced, the gang had a field day. First Joe and Mika opined that “there’s a new sheriff in town.” The parallels to High Noon were obvious if unspoken. Then the discussion took a kind of Joan of Arc turn with one talking head solemnly proclaiming the arrival of the “defender of our republic,” which turned out to be a popular go-to line echoed by Tim Weiner, a Pulitzer prize winning journalist who should know better, on The Rachel Maddow Show, “the republic just got a chance to save itself.”  Even the redoubtable Maddow, no stranger to celestial rhetoric, looked mildly discomfited.  Not one to stay silent in the face of the coming Rapture, Eric Holder, himself a recipient of high praise from the LINO left for his witch-hunt against whistleblowers and his indefatigable efforts to “soap the runway” for Obama’s war on immigrants, tried his hand at rearranging reality— “A leader, a man of character, a distinguished and dedicated public servant, principled pragmatist, an innovator and a motivator… This is a good move.”  Whether from politicians, talking heads, journalists, talk show hosts — the verdict is unanimous. Saint Mueller is on the job and the republic has been saved from, well actually it’s not quite clear what the republic has been saved from, but count on it, undoubtedly from a fate worse than peace.

What do we really know about Robert Mueller? A few things are self-evident. Like most revolving door inside the beltway movers and shakers, he’s rich— estimated worth about $8 million, half of which accrued to him since 2011, meaning his post-government minuet to one of DC’s plutocratic law firms had the inevitable result — fame and more fortune. To be clear, in a capitalist society where the rule of law has been supplanted by the law of the jungle, wealth striving is hardly one of the original seven sins.  Having been crowned the arbiter of “trust, discipline, and honor” (Ex CIA Chief George ‘slam dunk’ Tenet) by liberals of all stripes —government heavies, journalists, talk-show hosts (particularly those on MSNBC), the defense establishment lined up at the media feeding trough (the likes of General Barry McCaffrey and General James “Spider” Marks)—Mueller had no place to go but up the celestial stairway to universal acclaim

Perhaps the best way to judge Mueller’s bona fides is to compare Mueller-speak to Mueller-doings and see how his inspirational rhetoric matches up to his actions in public office. A Bush-Chaney appointee, he was tapped to carry out the post 911 policies of a criminogenic administration. How Robert Mueller’s background and ideology made him an ideal fit for a top position in this crew of brigands is important as we try to dislodge the “real” Robert Mueller from the media-crafted version. As chief of the domestic law enforcement arm of government, he was one-half (the CIA was the other) of the crew that took illegality to new heights —overseas war crimes and a domestic crime wave. In the view of some craven journalists — while Bush administration war hawks were “losing their moral gyroscopes,” there was one man who wasn’t. “Bobby (?) Mueller kept his cool and it was he and James Comey who…told Bush that they had to stop spying on Americans.” (Tim Weiner) Wow! Talk about revisionist history. “Far from the Madding Crowd” of mainstream media doublespeak the known facts paint a vastly less heroic picture

“I care deeply about the rule of law in a free society. A central responsibility of government…is to protect its citizens from criminal harm within the framework of the Constitution.”
—Robert Mueller on Robert Mueller

No doubt Mueller’s unparalleled grasp of media relations and his inspirational rhetoric were invaluable assets in grooming the media for his eventual star turn as Special Counsel. For twelve years as FBI czar he maintained a public pose of independence and fairness. Looks can be deceptive as a 2007 DOJ Inspector General report documented laying bare the seamy underside of his FBI tenure. Alleging among other illegalities, serial abuses in connection with the FBI’s handling of the USA Patriot Act, the IG produced hundreds of thousands of National Security letters Mueller approved that required telephone companies, internet service providers (ISP), banks and other financial entities, even libraries to hand over privileged and often Irrelevant (in the view of the IG) data on American citizens without court approval. The report concluded that the FBI handling of the USA Patriot Act lacked “effective management, monitoring, and reporting procedures.” (NY Times 3/9/16)

Oops, that could have been a real reputation-basher. What’s a Mr. Clean wannabe to do? First the obligatory mea culpa:

“How could this happen?”  [Mr. Mueller asked rhetorically] “Who is to be held accountable? And the answer to that is, I am to be held accountable.”

As a Republican appointee in the Bush administration, Democratic poohbas seized the moment to pillory Mueller. Here’s Chuck Schumer huffing and puffing: “…a profoundly disturbing breach of public trust…They [FBI] didn’t comply with the most meager reporting requirements.”  A lesser man might have folded up his tent and slunk quietly away, but not our hero. His crescendo of pious declarations bore fruit ten years later as the Special Counsel post hove into view  Here’s Chuck the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend Schumer on May 5, 2017 commenting on the appointment of Robert Mueller to be Special Counsel for the DOJ (and in a devoutly sought Democratic wet dream deposer of President Trump): “Former Director Mueller is exactly the right kind of individual for this job…”  (In fact, considering the cesspool the current administration has created, Chuckie might have hit the nail on the head)

The same merry-go-round sermonizing meant big news and bigger profits for the media. In 2007, this sound bite is typical “NBC News has learned that…the government has been collecting records on every phone call made in the United States.”  Ten years later, the tune issuing from media land was the same but the lyrics had taken a 180°. Mueller had been transformed into a “solid citizen (CNN) …the Special Counsel America Needs…a pro who…is broadly respected in both parties…for his competence and integrity.” (Nicholas Kristoff, NYT) In a subsequent article America’s paper of record, not satisfied with the overwrought prose of its commentators, took an editorial stance approaching deification: “enormous responsibility on Robert Mueller’s shoulders to keep our country and our democratic system safe from our Kremlin adversaries…We all stand to lose by being robbed of our democratic choices.” For good measure,Times editors threw in a quote from their former bête noire, Newt Gingrich now one of the good guys—“superb choice to be special counsel.”

“What has never changed and will never change are our values. We have pledged to serve and protect our nation and to do so while upholding the rule of law…and the liberty guaranteed to every citizen under the Constitution. I have always been proud to say that I work for the Department of Justice because of that for which it stands—that is unyielding commitment to the rule of law and the safety and security of the citizens we serve.”
Robert Mueller on Robert Mueller

During his tenure as FBI director. a lot of Mueller’s time seems to have been spent, not “upholding the rule of law and the liberty guaranteed to every citizen, but playing a supporting role in constructing an edifice of lies and illegal activities that were the hallmarks of the Bush and Obama administrations. When the Bush pre-emptive attack on Iraq needed a story line Americans could believe in, he was Johnny-on-the-spot cooking the intelligence to make it appear that both 9/11 and the anthrax attacks were linked to Iraq and their WMDs (which of course didn’t exist). When the facts could no longer support the fairy tale of Iraq-sponsored anthrax attacks, the ever-resourceful Mueller pulled two rabbits out of his hat framing not one but two innocent American scientists for the attacks. The chicken eventually came home to roost as one lucky scientist collected $5 million from the government for defamation, and the other, unable to stand the media glare, committed suicide.

“Whatever you do, you must act with honesty and integrity but regardless of what you do, you’re only as good as your word… Once lost a good reputation can never ever be regained… If you have integrity, nothing else matters…”
—Robert Mueller speech on 5/28/2017 at Tabor Academy

Despite Mueller’s 2017 paean to integrity, sixteen years earlier integrity was a commodity given short shrift.  In the buildup to the Bush GWOT (global war on terror), Mueller made a pre-emptive strike on 762 Muslims in the U.S., 491 of whom lived in New York City. In 2015, the U.S. Appeals Court allowed the lawsuit against the three government officials involved in that miscarriage of justice, including Robert Mueller, to move forward. In their ruling, the Court emphasized that “[holding the defendants] in solitary confinement 23 hours a day with regular strip searches because their perceived faith or race placed them in the group targeted for recruitment by al-Qaida violated the detainees’ constitutional rights”

So much for the rule of law. He wasn’t alone in the post-911 climate of hysteria and finger pointing to trample on the constitutional rights of Muslims unlucky enough to be in the U.S. during those troubled times. Fifteen years later, all is forgotten and forgiven — “Robert Mueller has sterling credentials and is above reproach.” (Republican senator Susan Collins)

To be sure, trust and integrity are difficult concepts to parse. They speak of a higher standard for decision-making, a values-directed approach particularly in the area of governance. Constitutional limits, the power of the people to control their destinies, to preserve a private space, to blow the whistle on an out-of-control governmental apparatus without fear of punishment, to cut through the thicket of lies and deceit that legitimate our overseas adventures—these are (or should be) democratic values that leaders with real integrity will strive to ensure. In Mueller-land, trust and integrity are sound bites.

“In the end, it is not only what we do, but how we do it. Whatever we do we must act with honesty and integrity. The FBI’s motto is fidelity, integrity, and bravery. For the men and women of the bureau, uncompromising integrity —both personal and institutional is the core value.”
—Robert Mueller, 2013 Commencement Address, College of William and Mary

Years late, the truth came tumbling out and the whole world knows what the Bush administration was doing to prisoners captured in Iraq and Afghanistan — torturing them in various black sites all over the globe, including Guantanamo, under the guise of “keeping us safe.”  The CIA was working as a tag team with FBI agents reporting to Mueller. One of the agents who took to heart the FBI’s “core value” of “uncompromising integrity” reported the CIA misdeeds up the chain of command. Mueller, not as taken with all that blather about integrity when his job was on the line, ordered the whistleblower agent home, directed other FBI agents not to participate in CIA interrogations, but not to make any written reports about them and the files relating to torture already at the FBI were made to disappear. To put the icing on the cake, Director Mueller (and later Comey when he became director) worked tirelessly during the Obama administration to prosecute NOT the torturers but the NSA and CIA whistleblowers who revealed the torture which prompted one of Obama’s sycophants to gush — “I have the highest regard for his integrity… (Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin)

“Not only what we do, but how we do it…”  the opportunity to be on the side of the angels came in 2012 when Mueller was asked in a congressional hearing if the President (Obama was his boss at the time) has “[the] ability to kill a U.S. citizen on United States soil or just overseas.” The right answer is, according to Professor Jonathan Turley, a Constitutional expert, “One would hope that the FBI Director would have the handle on a few details guiding his responsibilities including whether he can kill citizens without a charge or court order.”  Details like the Constitution are clearly not the first priority of this servant of the people. An awkward pause ensued while Mr. Trust and Integrity was figuring out how say nothing convincingly “I have to go back [to his boss Attorney General Eric Holder], uh, I’m not certain…”   After that rousing affirmation of the “core values” of trust and integrity he earned the following kudos.

“Robert Mueller was a great FBI Director…He’s respected, talented and has the knowledge…to do the right thing…No better person could have been chosen.”  (Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein in June, 2017]

As politicians are famous for developing amnesia on cue, the current lionization of Robert Mueller despite his checkered career, his indifference to the rule of law and documented history of standing mute in the face of serial abuses of power by his bosses is not particularly shocking. That Congress and the media would be doing handsprings over his selection when it is clear he has to adjudicate the contradictory claims of James Comey, fired FBI Director, and President Trump is less kosher. Particularly in view of James Comey’s own comments about the relationship between the two: “one of the closest working relationships the top ranks of the Justice Department have ever seen.” Not concerned about the potential conflict of interest pitfalls in the Mueller selection, the New York Times waxed eloquent

“Robert Mueller managed…as FBI Director to stay above the partisan fray carefully cultivating a rare reputation for independence and fairness”
—The New York Times editorial, May, 2017]

Ultimately it all boils down to a cost/benefit analysis. What price are the American people paying to keep Robert Mueller “doing what the powerful want him to do” (Coleen Rowley, retired FBI special agent and TIME magazine’s 2002 ‘Person of the Year’)? Depends on who you ask. For Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein, money well spent—

“Special Counsel Mueller has spent $3.2 million [actually almost $7 million counting law enforcement personnel working on the investigation but not direct reports] on the first five months of his investigation, a figure that is entirely reasonable given the results we’ve already seen… it’s clear the investigation is moving forward.”

Ah, the results —that’s the key. In the first year with costs likely to exceed $15 million, the results are at best underwhelming — one 30-day prison term for lying to the Special Prosecutor, two guilty pleas for charges unrelated to Russian meddling and two indictments for financial crimes unrelated to Russian meddling.

The exceptional nation is fast becoming the unremarkable nation with crumbling infrastructure, jobs that don’t provide a living wage, opioid abuse causing death and ruined lives, a penal system operating as a get-rich-quick scheme for private corporations, looming environmental catastrophe, a generation of young Americans facing a lifetime of debt, a healthcare system that provide neither health nor care and a tax system that rewards the wealthy on the backs of everybody else.  And America chooses to invest her treasure in a pretend investigation gathering pretend facts for a pretend problem run by a pretend hero.

Turn the money spigot off and turn the page.

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