Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is one of the longest-serving committee members, on the panel since 2001. He’s also known as a fierce critic of the intelligence community and has sparred with Comey in the past. But now he’s eager to give the former director a chance to share his side of the story. Expect him to serve up volleys that give Comey time to share his thoughts.
“Having more details — fleshing out what was said, who was involved, was it documented — I think will very much clarify where things were at the time Mr. Comey was fired,” Wyden said this week. “I said an hour after the president had fired Mr. Comey the single most important thing now is to get Mr. Comey in front of a public forum, the Intelligence Committee. We’re getting that now.”
“He and Mueller spent many hours together, developing a close partnership — and watching together the disarray in the government over how to respond to the unfolding war on terror,” Washingtonian notes. “They shared a horror at the poor quality information infiltrating the upper reaches of government.”
The article goes on to point to personal similarities as well as professional. Both men were educated at Virginia universities — Mueller at the University of Virginia, Comey at William & Mary.
“Just years apart in the 1990s, they both gave up their top-tier private law firm jobs to return to the trenches of prosecuting criminals — Mueller as a junior prosecutor in Washington, DC, and Comey in Richmond, Virginia,” Washingtonian reports. “Both men were rising stars mentored and guided by Eric Holder in the 1990s during Holder’s time in the Justice Department under the Clinton administration.”
Their relationship was made stronger during an incident in 2004. At the time, the Los Angeles Times reported, Comey, Mueller and a number of other law enforcement officials were on the verge of resigning in opposition to a Bush administration plan to reauthorize a domestic surveillance program that was launched after the terror attacks of 9/11. President Bush eventually agreed to modify the secret program after both men jointly intervened — an experience that is suspected to have drawn them even closer.
This week — amid allegations that President Trump pressured Comey to drop a probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn — the ousted FBI director’s associates have praised his truthfulness and credibility.
It’s a quality that many Republicans and Democrats believe Comey shares with Mueller, his predecessor.
“Regardless of your chosen career, you are only as good as your word,” Mueller told William & Mary’s graduating class in 2013. “You can be smart, aggressive, articulate, and indeed persuasive. But if you are not honest, your reputation will suffer. And once lost, a good reputation can never, ever be regained.”
Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, called Robert Mueller “a great choice for special counsel.” Sen. Charles E. Schumer, a Democrat from New York, called him “exactly the right kind of individual to serve as a special counsel in the Russia investigation.”
The initial reactions from many members of Congress were full of praise for the former FBI director.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), while offering cautions on Mueller’s ability to conduct an independent investigation, called him “someone with a history of expertise and experience with the guts and backbone to stand up and speak out against any kind of political influence.”
Rep. Peter J. Roskam (R-Ill.) called him “a man of the utmost integrity.”
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) called Mueller “somebody we all trust.”
“There’s not anybody with as much credibility internally or whose integrity is as unimpeachable as Bob Mueller,” said Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
There were a few members who were less openly enthused.
“I’m fine with it,” said Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas), who was among those who had resisted an independent prosecutor.
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the generally pro-Trump House Freedom Caucus, called it “a prudent move, and it certainly means that the administration is taking it seriously.”
But he suggested Mueller “comes with more credibility on the Democrat side than on the Republican side,” a remark he said was based on “sworn testimony that he’s given here on Capitol Hill since I’ve been here.”
This article originally incorrectly stated Schumer’s home state. It is New York.
Speaking to The Washington Post, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) predicted that when Americans look back on this chapter in history, “the heroes here will be an independent judiciary and a free press.”
previously called for a special independent prosecutor to investigate ties between Trump associates and Russian officials. The Justice Department instead decided to appoint a special counsel.
The appointment of former FBI director Robert Mueller to lead an investigation into possible coordination between Trump associates and Russian officials will not bring an end to other investigations probing the same potential ties, lawmakers said Wednesday.
“We’ve got a job to do, we’ve got an investigation to run and a report to were,” said Rep. K. Michael Conaway, a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. “And if we find criminal things … we’ll definitely refer those to Justice. But the importance of our investigation I don’t think is diminished in the least.”
“I don’t believe it’ll have an impact on us at all,” he added.
The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee from both parties also vowed their investigation would go forward. Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) called Mueller’s appointment a “positive development.”
“The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will continue its own investigation and to the extent any deconfliction is required, we will engage with Director Mueller and our expectation is that he will engage with the Committee as well,” Burr and Warner said in a statement.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) applauded the selection of Mueller as a fair and impartial investigator “with impeccable credentials.” He said the House Oversight Committee would continue with its probe, noting that his invitation to recently ousted FBI director James Comey still stands. He also pointed out that Comey and Mueller had a previous working relationship.
“We’re still moving full steam ahead,” Chaffetz said, according to The Washington Post’s Carol D. Leonnig. “People on both sides of the aisle should take comfort in his objectivity. But Comey used to work for Muller. So we will still want to see the memos and I’m still waiting to hear from director and confirm his appearance at the hearing.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) issued a statement endorsing Mueller’s appointment and noting that the House investigation will move ahead.
“My priority has been to ensure thorough and independent investigations are allowed to follow the facts wherever they may lead,” the statememt said. “That is what we’ve been doing here in the House.”
“The addition of Robert Mueller as special counsel is consistent with this goal, and I welcome his role at the Department of Justice,” the statement added. “The important ongoing bipartisan investigation in the House will also continue.”
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), echoed Chaffetz’s words and called Mueller’s appointment “a very positive step” and “a very solid choice.” But he shot down any suggestion that it will cause the House Intelligence Committee to downgrade its investigation.
“I don’t think there was any presumption that the House and Senate committee intelligence investigation are going to be impact in the sense of not needing to be as aggressive or forward-leaning,” Schiff told reporters. “I think we’re going to do exactly what we’re doing.”
Schiff added that Mueller taking the lead will help the public accept the results of the investigation.