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THOMPSON: Trump presidential campaign investigator is a straight shooter

November 06, 2017 - 12:00 PM

 


OPINION


Oh, to live almost a lifetime and be known far and wide as a straight arrow. Not by just your friends…but by everyone. Well, that’s saying something. And to be a public servant and have that reputation…well, it’s almost a miracle. But, that is the life of Robert S. Mueller III, special counsel guiding the investigation of the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia…and Russia’s interference in America’s 2016 presidential election.

I met Mueller in New York City in the early 1980s. We met by chance…in a hotel bar over a drink waiting for separate dinner reservations…and chatted for maybe a half hour. He was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Boston, MA, and I managed media relations for the Du Pont Company.

After typical cocktail bar pleasantries, he seemed more interested in talking about me and what I did than sharing much about his work, though I asked more than a few questions…no doubt my training as a journalist. He was about five years older than me, but we were both in the military during the same time…he in the U.S. Marines…I in the U.S. Air Force…so we spoke some about some common experiences.

He was quiet, less outgoing than me, but when he spoke it was worthy of your time to listen.

He reminded me of an IBM guy…white shirt, dark suit and a tie that your father might have worn. Neat, conservative…even-tempered…someone you wouldn’t necessarily like to see sitting across from you in a poker game.

We had a pleasant conversation over a drink…before our respective dinner reservations…though I discovered his was soda water and lime. I didn’t think much more about him until I realized he was named Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) almost 20 years later.

We’re hardly friends…a brief conversation over a drink doesn’t make a relationship.

But I feel compelled to write about this man…because he is now the target of character assassination by the Trump Administration, some Republicans and a host of Right Wing  members of the media.

Mueller’s curriculum vitae is impressive…a graduate of Princeton University, a Master’s Degree in International Relations from New York University, and a law degree from the University of Virginia Law School, where he served on the Law Review. His biography from the FBI.gov website is equally impressive.

“After college, he joined the United States Marine Corps, where he served as an officer for three years, leading a rifle platoon of the Third Marine Division in Vietnam. He is the recipient of the Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals, the Purple Heart, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.

After completing his education, Mr. Mueller worked as a litigator in San Francisco until 1976. He then served for 12 years in United States Attorney’s Offices, first in the Northern District of California in San Francisco, where he rose to be chief of its criminal division. In 1982, he moved to Boston as an Assistant United States Attorney, where he investigated and prosecuted major financial fraud, terrorist, and public corruption cases, as well as narcotics conspiracies and international money launderers.

After serving as a partner at the Boston law firm of Hill and Barlow, Mr. Mueller returned to public service. In 1989 he served in the United States Department of Justice as an assistant to Attorney General Richard L. Thornburgh. The following year he took charge of its Criminal Division. In 1991, he was elected Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers.

In 1993, Mr. Mueller became a partner at Boston’s Hale and Dorr, specializing in complex white collar crime litigation. He again returned to public service in 1995 as senior litigator in the Homicide Section of the District of Columbia United States Attorney’s Office. In 1998, Mr. Mueller was named United States Attorney in San Francisco and held that position until 2001.”

A week before the 9/11 terror attacks in New York City, Mueller was named Director of the FBI by President George W. Bush, and he served in that position for 12 years…the longest serving Director since J. Edgar Hoover. 

Now, as Mueller’s painstaking investigation nears the end of its beginning…with his unsealing indictments last week against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, and Rick Gates, his longtime business partner, who also worked for Trump’s campaign…my guess is more shoes will drop in the days and weeks ahead.

Mueller also let it be known last week that George Papadopoulis, a former foreign policy adviser for the Trump campaign, pleaded guilty to charges of lying to the FBI about his attempts to broker meeting with Russian officials and the campaign. Papadopoulis - called a “proactive cooperator” in his plea agreement - likely wore a wire during conversations with a variety of former Trump campaign officials, according to experts familiar with FBI-speak.

There’s bound to be some sleepless nights for those who talked with him between his arrest in July and his plea deal in early October. After all, members of the Trump campaign and Administration are no smarter than they seem.

I don’t know how many in the Trump campaign and Administration talked to Russians about getting “dirt” on Hillary…or what they promised in return. But I do know it was wrong. Period. 

My hunch is that Mueller’s investigation will turn up several Trump campaign and Administration officials who conspired against the United States…and they will go to prison. “We’ll see,” to quote a common presidential response.

Meanwhile, Republicans, Right Wing media and the President are trying to paint Mueller as the bad guy…and nothing…nothing could be further from the truth. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich wildly praised Mueller in May after his appointment as special counsel, calling him a “superb choice” with an “impeccable” reputation for honesty and integrity. Less than three months later Gingrich claimed Mueller is part of some grand conspiracy to undermine Trump. People like Gingrich start lying and inventing conspiracies when good people get close to the truth…they vilify them.

The stooges at Fox in the Morning, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Alex Jones and a host of other wing nuts are working double time…lying like there’s no tomorrow. But there is a tomorrow…and those who lie and deflect will have to face truth at some point. It won’t be pretty. That’s what happens though when truth comes second to people’s ideology.

What Americans better embrace…and soon…is that outside influence on elections tears at the very fabric of the nation. And collusion…whether Republican or Democrat…is wrong. It is treason. And every free nation should be wary…it can happen anywhere if you let your guard down. Whenever people think party is bigger than country…those who seek to undermine democracy gain a foothold.

Meanwhile, those in Donald Trump’s orbit - Manafort, Gates, Donald Jr, Kushner, Clovis, Bannon, Conway, Hicks, Miller and Scavino to name a few - are likely trying to recall all those guarded conversations, discussions and emails…and wondering. One man isn’t wondering…he’s simply following evidence…just as he has always done.

I’m a betting man…and I’ll wager a huge amount that Bob Mueller will find everything there is to be found. He’s a straight arrow…and has been his entire life.

– Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines.  His essays are a blend of news reporting and opinion.


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