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Who Is the Special Counsel Investigating Trump?

By William Vogeler, Esq. on May 18, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

President Trump lashed out on Twitter at the appointment of a special counsel to investigate ties between his campaign and Russian officials.

"With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special councel [sic] appointed!" Trump raged. "This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!"

So who is this special prosecutor, and why is the president so upset? The answer to both questions centers on one person: Robert S. Mueller.

Close for Comfort

Mueller preceded James B. Comey as FBI director. Reuters reported that Comey was fired last week while investigating Trump's ties to Russia and after the president asked him to drop an investigation of his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, who resigned after it was revealed that he concealed his contacts with Russia during Trump's presidential campaign.

Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel because Attorney General Jeff Sessions couldn't; Sessions had recused himself for failing to disclose meetings he had with a Russian ambassador when Sessions was a Trump campaign adviser.

If this is a witch hunt, as the president protests, at least Mueller doesn't seem to have suspicious ties to Russia. And that's one reason he was appointed -- to quell growing public unrest about the muddied investigation into the president's contacts with Russia during his run for the White House.

Democrat and Republican senators praised Mueller's appointment, saying he has a record of "character and trustworthiness" that will help toward "restoring credibility" in the American legal system.

Former Prosecutor

FBI biographical records show that Mueller, a former federal prosecutor, became director of the FBI in 2001 and served both Democratic and Republican presidents until 2013. He started at the agency one week before the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and led FBI inquiries into Al Qaeda while restructuring the agency as part of the national security apparatus.

Prior to his term as FBI director, Mueller served three terms as a federal prosecutor. From 1976 to 1988, he worked in the U.S. Attorney's Office. After a brief time in civil practice, he returned to criminal work with the Department of Justice and later as a prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney until 2001.

Mueller graduated from Princeton University and earned a master's degree in international relations at New York University. After college, he joined the Marines and led a rifle platoon in Vietnam. He received several military awards, including the Purple Heart and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.

Following his tour of duty, he earned a law degree from the University of Virginia Law School and served on its law review. He began his career as a civil litigator, but soon turned to government service as a prosecutor. He is expected to announce his resignation from the law firm WilmerHale to fulfill his appointment as special counsel.

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