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As he investigates Trump’s aides, Robert Mueller’s record shows surprising flaws

 

(LA Times)  When he was named special counsel in May, Robert S. Mueller III was hailed as the ideal lawman — deeply experienced, strait-laced and nonpartisan — to investigate whether President Trump’s campaign had helped with Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

The accolades squared with Mueller’s valor as a Marine rifle platoon commander in Vietnam and his integrity as a federal prosecutor, senior Justice Department official and FBI director from 2001 to 2013 — the longest tenure since J. Edgar Hoover’s. He was praised by former courtroom allies and opponents, and by Democrats and Republicans in Congress.

But at 73, Mueller has a record that shows a man of fallible judgment who can be slow to alter his chosen course. At times, he has intimidated or provoked resentment among subordinates. And his tenacious yet linear approach to evaluating evidence led him to fumble the biggest U.S. terrorism investigation since 9/11.

Now, as he leads a sprawling investigation aimed at the White House, Mueller’s prosecutorial discretion looms over the Trump presidency.

On what terms would Mueller offer immunity from prosecution to investigative targets? How broadly will he interpret his mandate to look into not only the 2016 campaign but also matters that “may arise directly from the investigation”?

Will he target Trump’s sprawling family business and financial empire and the years before the developer ran for the White House?

Robert Swan Mueller III began life on an elite footing.

Raised in affluent suburbs west of Philadelphia, he attended St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire (classmates included future Secretary of State John F. Kerry) before majoring in politics at Princeton. He joined the Marines after graduation and was awarded Navy and Marine Corps medals for his service in Vietnam, where he was shot in the thigh. He graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1973.

Bored by a stint at a white-shoe San Francisco law firm, the jut-jawed Mueller switched to the U.S. attorney’s office there in 1976. Colleagues say he typically arrived by 6:30 a.m., at times in his Marine-issue green raincoat. He played on the office softball team but was careful not to let down his guard while socializing.

“He’d join us, have one — and it was only one — and then his wife would arrive to pick him up,” recalled a colleague.

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