- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 5, 2001

President Bush nominated Justice Department veteran Robert Mueller today to head the FBI and try to help the agency rebound from a string of recent embarrassments that ranged from bungled documents to the unveiling of a spy.

"He assumes great responsibilities, he was chosen with great care, and he has my confidence," the president said.

Mr. Bush announced his selection in a Rose Garden ceremony. If confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Mueller will fill a 10-year term as the sixth director of the nation's top law enforcement agency. With his wife Ann at his side, Mr. Mueller pledged to "enforce our nation's laws fairly and with respect to the rights of all Americans."

Attorney General John Ashcroft interrupted his Independence Day vacation in Missouri to attend.

A U.S. attorney in San Francisco, Mr. Mueller was long considered the front-runner and Mr. Ashcroft's favorite to replace retired FBI Director Louis Freeh at the helm of an agency troubled in recent years.

Mr. Bush saluted Mr. Mueller as a man of "fidelity, bravery and integrity."

"The FBI must remain independent of politics and uncompromising in its mission," Mr. Bush said. "… Bob Mueller's experience and character convinced me that he's ready to shoulder these responsibilities."

Among the FBI's problems were a maverick independent streak, its snake-bitten relationship with the Clinton administration and a series of mishaps, including the botched investigation of former nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee, and the mishandling of evidence in the Oklahoma City bombing trial that forced the postponement of Timothy McVeigh's execution.

In February, the FBI discovered that one of its own, veteran FBI agent Robert Hanssen, had been spying for the Russians for more than 15 years.

Mr. Mueller's nomination had been expected since last month, when Bush abruptly asked aides to take one last look at the field of possible candidates.

The White House is seeking to rein in the independent-minded FBI and the president, aides said, wanted a director who defers to the Justice Department.

Mr. Mueller remained the strongest candidate to fit this bill. The former acting deputy attorney general won the support of Attorney General John Ashcroft by aiding in the transition from the Clinton administration.

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