Robert S. Mueller III doesn’t seek deferments. After a classmate died in Vietnam, this well-to-do Princeton athlete traded his lacrosse stick for a military rifle and volunteered for war. He returned with a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and a gunshot wound.
He later brought the same gritty courage to battling crime at the Department of Justice. Eventually, he retired to private practice, but moved by violence sweeping Washington, D.C., Mueller quit his law firm to work in the trenches as a homicide prosecutor.
When his 10-year term as FBI director expired, a notoriously gridlocked Congress changed the law—just for him—and, once again, Mueller forfeited comfort for continued service.
Mueller is straitlaced and tight-lipped, a legal and sartorial traditionalist. Once, while jointly announcing charges in an international assassination plot, he chided me for wearing a blue shirt.
Mueller’s buttoned-down discretion has made him an enigmatic vessel into which polarized sides pour their hopes and fears. To millions, the special counsel is either a political savior or berserk villain. He is neither. He’s a by-the-book lawman who, with nothing to prove and a lifetime of service behind him, agreed to lead the most fraught, least understood, highest-stakes investigation of our time.
For that we owe him incalculable thanks.
Bharara is a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York