Editor’s note: Philip Mudd comments on counterterrorism and security policy for CNN. He was the deputy director of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center and the senior intelligence adviser at the FBI. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.
(CNN) — Most Americans have never before witnessed their country in the grips of the political turbulence and unease that they’re seeing now.
And few public servants possess the skills and cross-party support to navigate through these months with a promise of clear answers, free of politicization, endless leaks and fruitless drama.
That is why the selection of a former FBI director Robert Mueller to oversee the federal investigation into campaign interference is so important. No one can match Robert Mueller.
His years of experience, from the FBI’s difficult investigation of the 2001 anthrax attacks to political corruption cases that reached the Congress, have left him well prepared for the challenges this case presents. He can handle the nonstop media coverage, the pressures from the White House and the concerns about duration and breadth of the case.
You can make a few assumptions along the way. He won’t do media. He won’t leak. He’ll have a single-minded focus on a clear mission, a quality of a man who often defines himself by his Marine background. He doesn’t sit still; he’ll be thorough, but I never knew him to dawdle. The investigation will move at a steady pace.
These judgments come from more than four years of sitting down the corridor from his office at FBI Headquarters. I witnessed countless moments that would form my impressions of him. Threat meetings to discuss plots in American cities. Personnel decisions. Difficult conversations about the future of the FBI. And political dramas. No other leader I ever witnessed worked through this parade of risky, complex, and sometimes politically charged issues with the remarkable range of skill and steel of Mueller.
You want no-nonsense? Watch him deal with a poorly performing executive. You want courage? Watch him persist through ugly political corruption investigations. You want heart? Watch him speak at any ceremony honoring a fallen FBI officer. You want judgment? Watch him make difficult management decisions without ever a moment that lacked integrity.
And you want service? Watch him — after duty as a Marine in Vietnam, as a federal prosecutor, and as FBI director for 12 years — leave a highly paid law office job to guide America through turmoil one more time.
Presidents. Secretaries of state. Ambassadors. National security advisors. Watch them all, supremely talented, come and go through years of serving in Washington. When you’re done, look through the deck to select one who has the character, judgment, experience and reputation that can match Director Mueller. That’s an empty deck. He’s it.
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