Much drama surrounds former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s upcoming testimony—on July 17, or perhaps on July 24—before two committees of the House of Representatives. It flows in no small part from Mueller’s character, as a man out of time, whose extraordinary commitment to values uncommon in today’s world have made him both an icon and a curiosity. I know of his long-standing commitment to those values not just from reading the papers, but from serving with him decades ago, as new assistant U.S. attorneys in San Francisco in 1977 and as colleagues in leadership roles at Main Justice in 1989 and 1990.
Bob Mueller is a marine, who takes the core values of honor, courage and commitment seriously. Time and again, he has answered the call to step in and do his best in dire circumstances—in Vietnam, where he was decorated for courageous conduct under fire; as a line homicide prosecutor in the nation’s capital, because “there’s just too many young people dying violently in this city”; in 1998, as the United States attorney in a San Francisco office in such difficult straits that President Bill Clinton called him back to fix it; and as the director of the FBI, who just one week into the job, on September 11, 2001, was handed the new task of remaking the bureau for the worldwide War on Terror. In that last role, Mueller stayed two years past the end of his term—the longest tenure for a director since J. Edgar Hoover—when pressed by President Barack Obama. And, of course, in 2017 he answered the call to serve in the predictably thankless job of special counsel.