Who Is Robert Mueller?

Special Counsel, Former FBI Director, Decorated Military Veteran

Robert S. Mueller III
Former FBI Director Robert Mueller speaks at a 2008 news conference at the FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C.

 Alex Wong/Getty Images

Robert S. Mueller III is an American attorney, former criminal prosecutor, and former director of the FBI. He spent decades investigating terrorism and white-collar crimes before being tapped by Republican President George W. Bush to head the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He is currently the Special Counsel for the United States Department of Justice, appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Fast Facts: Robert Mueller

  • Known For: Former Director of the FBI, decorated military veteran, and current Special Counsel appointed to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election
  • Born: August 7, 1944 in New York, New York
  • Parents' Names: Robert Swan Mueller II and Alice Truesdale Mueller
  • Education: Princeton University (B.A., Politics), New York University (M.A., International Relations), University of Virginia (J.D.)
  • Key Accomplishments: Bronze Star (with valor), Purple Heart Medal, Navy Commendation Medals (with valor), Combat Action Ribbon, South Vietnam Gallantry Cross
  • Spouse's Name: Ann Standish Mueller (m. 1966)
  • Children's Names: Melissa and Cynthia

Early Years

Robert Mueller was born in New York City on August 7, 1944. He grew up in both Princeton, New Jersey and a wealthy Philadelphia suburb called the Main Line. He is the oldest of five children born to Robert Swan Mueller II, a business executive and former Navy officer, and Alice Truesdale Mueller. Mueller later told a biographer that his father expected his children to live by a strict moral code. Mueller attended an elite prep school in Concord, New Hampshire, then chose to attend Princeton University for college.

Princeton played an important role in Mueller's life, because the campus—and specifically the lacrosse field—is where he met his friend and teammate David Hackett. Hackett graduated from Princeton in 1965, entered the Marines and was deployed in Vietnam, where he was killed in 1967.

Hackett's death had a profound impact on the young Mueller. Speaking in 2013, Mueller said of his teammate:

“One would have thought that the life of a Marine, and David’s death in Vietnam, would argue strongly against following in his footsteps. But many of us saw in him the person we wanted to be, even before his death. He was a leader and a role model on the fields of Princeton. He was a leader and a role model on the fields of battle as well. And a number of his friends and teammates joined the Marine Corps because of him, as did I.”

Military Service

Mueller joined the military after graduating from Princeton in 1966. He then began active-duty military service in 1967 at the Marine Corps Officer Candidates School at Quantico, Virginia. After training at the Army’s Ranger and Airborne schools, Mueller was sent to Vietnam as a member of H Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines. He was wounded in the leg and reassigned to serve as an aide to a senior officer; he remained in Vietnam, despite his injury, until leaving active duty in 1970. Mueller was awarded the Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals, the Purple Heart and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.

Legal Career

During his legal career, Robert Mueller prosecuted Manuel Noriega, the former Panamanian dictator convicted of drug trafficking, money laundering and racketeering, as well as John Gotti, the Gambino family crime boss convicted of racketeering, murder, conspiracy, gambling, obstruction of justice and tax fraud. Mueller also oversaw the investigation into the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which killed 270 people when it exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988.

A brief timeline of Mueller's career is as follows:

  • 1973: Began work as a litigator private practice in San Francisco after his graduation from the University of Virginia with a law degree.
  • 1976: Began work as a prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney Office for the Northern District of California in San Francisco.
  • 1982: Began work as assistant U.S. attorney in Boston investigating and prosecuting major financial fraud, terrorism and public corruption.
  • 1989: Began work as assistant to U.S. Attorney General Richard L. Thornburgh.
  • 1990: Began work as the head of the U.S. Department of Justice's Criminal Division.
  • 1993: Began work in private practice specializing in white-collar crime for the Boston firm Hale and Dorr.
  • 1995: Began work as senior homicide litigator in the U.S. Attorney Office for the District of Columbia.
  • 1998: Named the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California.
  • 2001: Appointed director of the FBI and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

FBI Director

President George W. Bush appointed Mueller to the position of FBI director on September 4, 2001, just seven days before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Mueller went on to become the longest-serving FBI Director since J. Edgar Hoover, and the first to exceed the statutory 10-year term limit since it was imposed in 1973.

Bush's successor, President Barack Obama, granted a rare extension to Mueller's term, citing Mueller's "steady hand and strong leadership" as the nation anticipated another terrorist attack. Mueller served until September 4, 2013. He is the only FBI to have been granted such an extension since the term limit went into effect.

Ongoing Role as Special Counsel

On May 17, 2017, Mueller was appointed to the role of Special Counsel to investigate "Russian interference with 2016 presidential election and other matters," according to an order creating the position signed by Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein. The investigation is ongoing.


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Murse, Tom. "Who Is Robert Mueller?" ThoughtCo, Feb. 17, 2021, thoughtco.com/robert-mueller-4175811. Murse, Tom. (2021, February 17). Who Is Robert Mueller? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/robert-mueller-4175811 Murse, Tom. "Who Is Robert Mueller?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/robert-mueller-4175811 (accessed June 5, 2023).