- The Washington Times - Friday, July 6, 2001

President Bush yesterday named longtime Justice Department lawyer Robert S. Mueller III to head the FBI, saying the veteran prosecutor "has my full confidence" to run the embattled federal agency.
"It is my honor to nominate Robert S. Mueller of California to become the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation," Mr. Bush said at a Rose Garden ceremony with Mr. Mueller at his side. "He assumes great responsibilities. He was chosen with great care, and he has my full confidence."
A former Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam and won the Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals, Purple Heart and Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, Mr. Mueller will inherit an agency under fire from the public and Congress over a series of blunders and missteps.
Those gaffes have included the FBI's failure to turn over 4,000 pages of documents to prosecutors and defense lawyers during the trial of now-executed terrorist Timothy McVeigh, the arrest of 27-year veteran FBI Agent Robert P. Hanssen as a suspected spy, and the botched investigation of former nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee.
Mr. Bush urged Mr. Mueller to confront "some important challenges," while also making sure the FBI remains "independent of politics and uncompromising in its mission."
"Bob Mueller's experience and character convince me he's ready to shoulder these responsibilities," he said.
In accepting the nomination, Mr. Mueller, a native New Yorker, said he was "deeply honored" and looked forward to the confirmation process.
"The FBI is the foremost law enforcement agency in the world … and if confirmed, I look forward to working with the thousands of dedicated men and women who are agents and employees of the FBI to enforce our nation's laws fairly and with respect to the rights of all Americans," he said.
Mr. Mueller's nomination was strongly supported by Attorney General John Ashcroft, who interrupted a weeklong Missouri vacation to attend the Rose Garden ceremony. Mr. Mueller was one of a handful of Justice Department lawyers who played a key role in the transition from the Clinton administration.
Mr. Ashcroft, in a statement, said he was "very pleased" by the nomination, calling Mr. Mueller, who served as acting deputy attorney general for the first five months of the Ashcroft regime, a "dedicated public servant who brings a wealth of experience to this job."
"I was grateful to have the benefit of his experience and good judgment during that time," he said. "With an expertise in criminal law that is broad and deep, he is well equipped to lead our nation's top law enforcement agency. I am confident, once confirmed, he will carry out the duties of this post with honor and integrity."
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will conduct Mr. Mueller's confirmation hearing, said the veteran prosecutor inherits an FBI "beleaguered by a series of high-profile mistakes and by a culture that too often does not recognize and correct its errors."
"I will be interested in hearing Mr. Mueller's views, his willingness to acknowledge and correct the bureau's problems and his ability to meet these challenges head on," Mr. Leahy said in a statement.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican and a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, said he would meet with Mr. Mueller to discuss "systemic problems" within the FBI and inquire about the "dramatic reforms" needed to restore public confidence in the agency.
"I will carefully consider Mr. Mueller's nomination based on this meeting and the confirmation process," he said.
If confirmed, Mr. Mueller, 56, will be only the sixth person to lead the FBI since 1924, when J. Edgar Hoover was named as the first director.
Mr. Bush, in announcing the nomination, noted that Mr. Mueller was named as U.S. attorney in California by President Clinton and appointed as an assistant attorney general by his father, President George Bush.
"Our next FBI director has given nearly all his career to public service, going back to his days in the Marine Corps," said Mr. Bush. "As a lawyer, prosecutor and government official, he has shown high ideals, a clear sense of purpose and a tested devotion to his country."
Mr. Bush also paid tribute to Mr. Mueller's predecessor, former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh, calling him "a good and honest man … who has my respect and the gratitude of our nation."
Mr. Mueller played key roles as head of the Justice Department's criminal division under former President Bush in the prosecution of several high-profile cases, including:
The bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in December 1988 that killed 270 persons. Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence officer, later was convicted for the bombing in a Scottish court after an eight-month trial.
The prosecution of Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega, ousted from power during a 1989 U.S. invasion of Panama. Noriega was convicted in 1992 on charges of cocaine trafficking and sentenced to 40 years in a U.S. prison.
The conviction of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International on money laundering, racketeering and conspiracy charges in separate cases in 1990 and 1991. The bank paid $550 million to U.S. authorities to settle the cases.
The 1992 conviction of mob boss John Gotti, who had outmaneuvered the government in three prior trials. Gotti was sentenced to life in prison for the gangland assassination of his former boss, Paul "Big Paul" Castellano.
Mr. Mueller received a bachelor's degree from Princeton University in 1966, a master's degree in international studies from New York University in 1972, and a J.D. degree from the University of Virginia Law School in 1973.

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