Robert S. Mueller III, a 1973 alum of the University of Virginia School of Law and the longest-serving FBI director since J. Edgar Hoover, has been appointed as special counsel to oversee the investigation into Russia’s interference in the presidential election and ties to the Donald Trump campaign.
Mueller was nominated by President George W. Bush to serve as the sixth director of the FBI and he took office on Sept. 4, 2001, just one week before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He stepped down in 2013, concluding a 12-year tenure in which he oversaw the transformation of the FBI from a law enforcement agency focused primarily on criminal investigation to a national security service dedicated to preventing terrorism and crime. In 2014 he joined the law firm WilmerHale as a partner.
Before he stepped down as FBI director, Mueller was awarded the 2013 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Law and spoke at the Law School; the Jefferson medals are the University’s highest external honor. In 2003 he delivered the Law School’s commencement address, advising graduates to devote themselves to service, which he defined as “putting others before yourself.”
“We must also not forget that we all have a national responsibility. Democracy is a form of government that thrives only by the interest and the actions of its citizens,” Mueller said, citing Jefferson’s appeal. “There is a debt of service due from every man to his country, proportioned to the bounties which nature and fortune have measured him.”
Mueller was born in New York City and grew up outside of Philadelphia. He graduated from Princeton University in 1966 and went on to earn a master’s degree in international relations from New York University in 1967.
Following his time at NYU, Mueller joined the U.S. Marine Corps and served as an officer for three years, leading a rifle platoon of the Third Marine Division in Vietnam. For his service in the Marines, he received the Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals, the Purple Heart and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.
After his military service, Mueller enrolled at UVA Law, where he served on the Virginia Law Review and earned his law degree in 1973.
Mueller worked as a litigator in San Francisco until 1976, when he launched a 12-year career in U.S. attorney’s offices, first in the Northern District of California in San Francisco, where he eventually led its criminal division. In 1982, Mueller was appointed as an assistant U.S. attorney in Boston, where he investigated and prosecuted cases involving financial fraud, terrorism, public corruption, narcotics conspiracy and international money laundering.
After a stint in private practice, Mueller returned to public service in 1989 as an assistant to Attorney General Richard L. Thornburgh in the Department of Justice. A year later, Mueller took charge of the Justice Department’s criminal division.
Mueller became a partner at the Boston law firm Hale and Dorr in 1993, where he specialized in white-collar crime litigation.
In 1995, Mueller joined the District of Columbia U.S. Attorney’s Office as senior litigator in the homicide section. In 1998, he was appointed as a U.S. attorney in San Francisco, a position he held until 2001.