The man tasked with investigating possible meddling by Russia in the 2016 presidential election – a probe that will likely encompass President Trump’s recent firing of FBI Director James Comey – once called Comey “one of the finest people I’ve ever met.”
Robert Mueller, Comey’s predecessor at FBI from 2001-2013, has a lengthy, close and somewhat controversial history with the man suddenly at the center of investigations swirling around Trump. Mueller on Wednesday evening was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as special counsel to oversee the Justice Department’s investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election and related issues.
But Mueller and Comey have been longtime allies dating back to at least 2003 when the men both worked in Washington, D.C., Mueller as FBI Director and Comey as Deputy Attorney General.
The men were memorably cast – mostly via Comey’s 2007 testimony – as honorable men standing against government overreach when they talked former President George W. Bush out of pushing ahead the renewal of a controversial surveillance program. That episode included a supposedly dramatic hospital bedside encounter when Bush aides tried to get ailing Attorney General John Ashcroft to sign off on the program’s renewal. But Ashcroft, and in Comey’s telling, Comey himself, stood firmly athwart the pressure and prevailed.