Particular counsel Robert Swan Mueller III is the second-most well-known man in Washington.

Time Journal simply ranked him No. three on their Particular person of the Yr record, after crusading journalists and Donald Trump. It’s unattainable to spend a day on this city with out listening to or studying Mueller’s identify. He’ll go down in historical past, for higher or worse, as one of many pivotal figures of the Trump period.

All this for a person who seldom speaks and is never seen. He’s omnipresent and absent, inescapable however elusive, the invisible yang to Trump’s gold-plated yin.

“Mueller’s silence has invited noisy hypothesis from partisans,” writes Time. “To critics on the suitable, he’s an overzealous prosecutor drunk on energy and roaming past his mandate in a bid to drum Trump out of workplace.

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“To liberals, he’s a crusading hero who will not give up till he brings the President to justice. The general public narrative of Mueller’s investigation this 12 months has typically described its central character extra as fantasy than man.”

Robert Mueller (Getty)

Such is the peculiar nature of Washington {that a} highly effective man who shuns the highlight ought to change into an object of fascination, and the particular character of Mueller – an old-school WASP detached to entreaties for speeches, interviews and photo-ops. Extra folks have seen Robert De Niro taking part in Mueller on “Saturday Evening Reside” than have seen the particular counsel himself.

“I all the time joke that Bob Mueller has turned down extra interview requests in his profession than most individuals in Washington ever get within the first place,” says Garrett Graff, writer of “The Risk Matrix: Inside Robert Mueller’s FBI and the Struggle on World Terror” and Mueller’s de facto biographer.

“Opposite to each single factor that the president tweets immediately, Mueller is and all the time has been in all probability essentially the most apolitical nonpartisan particular person within the metropolis. He does every thing that he can to keep away from the general public highlight and something even barely resembling politicking.”

Mueller is content material to be identified and revered inside a really small circle of shut buddies and colleagues. That is uncommon in a city full of former highschool class presidents with sufficient egos to “float battleships,” as former Senator Alan Simpson put it.

Politicians love cameras – and Twitter feeds, Instagram and extra – however Mueller’s solely public assertion as particular counsel got here on 17 Might, 2017, the day he was appointed: “I settle for this duty and can discharge it to one of the best of my means.”

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Greater than something, silence has come to outline Mueller. He is change into a meme, a cartoon superhero or supervillain, extra highly effective with each phrase he doesn’t say.

“Like all of the FBI administrators I’ve identified, together with myself, Bob isn’t about to attempt his case or run his proof by the courtroom of public opinion,” says William Webster, the one man to go each the FBI and the CIA.

“That is not how our FBI works. It isn’t how Bob Mueller works. It’d make for good television rankings, however it leaves an excessive amount of open for misunderstanding and, in my view, creates a circus ambiance round critically essential instances.”

Kenneth Starr, the impartial counsel investigating Invoice Clinton, had a unique method: He spoke to reporters throughout his 5 years in that job in hopes it could assist People higher perceive the explanations for the investigation.

“Relationships between prosecutors and the press are inherently troublesome and delicate,” he says. “A federal prosecutor wields essential powers and thus ought to all the time be held accountable by the American folks. That accountability carries with it, in my opinion, a task for offering public info … with out transgressing essential limitations – particularly the safety of grand jury secrecy.”

Head of Particular Counsel investigation Robert Mueller (Getty)

Mueller, says Starr, might have been chastened by former FBI director James Comey’s “inappropriate public relations method” and needs the charging paperwork to talk for themselves. “All issues thought-about, I feel he has adopted a sensible technique, albeit on the expense of a extra full public understanding of his essential work.”

Leon Panetta, former White Home chief of employees and head of the CIA, says there’s another excuse for Mueller’s silence: He does not need to give Trump any ammunition that might compromise the case. “He actually feels that the integrity of the investigation needs to be protected and never permit the president to undermine it.”

Mueller isn’t instinctively anyone who performs the political recreation, says Panetta, who’ve identified one another for years. “He did not even significantly prefer to testify earlier than Congress, however he knew that he needed to do it. He actually thought that those that have been on the market within the press have been solely undercutting their place quite than strengthening it.”

In reality, Mueller – by temperament {and professional} expertise – has all the time most popular to be judged by his deeds, not his phrases. He grew up in Princeton, a childhood of privilege and personal boarding colleges, the place self-aggrandisement and promotion have been thought-about poor kind.

His stints as a Marine platoon chief through the Vietnam Struggle and as a federal prosecutor emphasised teamwork quite than any particular person effort. Throughout his 12-year tenure as head of the FBI, he not often appeared at public occasions and turned down nearly all of the A-list invites that got here with that title.

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Throughout his journey to the Capitol to temporary Congress in June 2017 – one month after changing into particular counsel – Mueller and his workforce navigated again hallways and stairwells to keep away from the media.

There have been solely three extensively circulated sightings within the wild since then: One photograph of Mueller standing on a road nook in March, one in July with Mueller and Donald Trump Jr each ready to catch a flight at Gate 35X at Reagan Nationwide Airport and one in all Mueller and his spouse in September on the Genius Bar in Georgetown’s Apple retailer, the place they have been getting assist with a laptop computer.

The dearth of photos led to this plea by Slate employees author Heather Schwedel earlier this 12 months: “Why are we clamoring for brand new Mueller pics like paparazzi stalking Jennifer Aniston? As a result of each time his investigation into Russia’s interference within the 2016 presidential election makes information – which is so much today – websites like Slate should use the identical images of Mueller we have been utilizing since this previous summer time … Our nation’s poor photograph editors are caught with a cache of boring, already-used photographs of one of the vital newsworthy figures of our political second.”

By now, it goes with out saying that Mueller and his prosecutors run the tightest ship in Washington. No interviews, no leaks, no whispers, no jokes, no nuthin’.

In August, members of his workforce have been noticed by the press ready for a Shake Shack supply at an Alexandria lodge throughout Paul Manafort’s trial. Shake Shack, huh? joked a reporter. Peter Carr, Mueller’s spokesman, wouldn’t even verify the order.

Particular counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation might have new gasoline (Eric Thayer/Bloomberg)

Mueller not often ventures exterior his non permanent workplace in a nondescript federal constructing. Even in his most public position earlier than this, as head of the FBI, Mueller solely appeared in public when it was essential to the bureau. Most of images of him are from testimony to the Senate a number of years in the past. His final talking look (introduced earlier than he was named particular counsel) was in Might 2017 on the commencement of his granddaughter from a small boarding college in Massachusetts.

“One of many issues that I feel is essential in understanding him is knowing the attitude that he brings to this job,” says Graff. “When you obtained him in a second of candour, he would say that that is not more than the third-hardest job that he has ever had after the Marines in Vietnam and after being FBI director within the wake of 9/11.

“In that sense, the photograph of him on the Apple Retailer is indicative of so much: He is simply persevering with to steer his life. His life has all the time been underneath the radar and non-showy, and that is precisely how he has comported himself as particular counsel.”

Mueller’s non-public life is much more circumspect. It’s potential, after following the bread crumbs of his biography, to find out his comings and goings. He lives in a gated group in Georgetown along with his spouse of 52 years, Ann.

They’ve two daughters, Melissa and Cynthia, seen solely once they attended his 2001 affirmation listening to as head of the FBI. The couple frequently attends providers at an Episcopal church in downtown Washington. They each play golf, though Ann’s the higher golfer of the 2.

And so they have a weekly dinner date, often at their favorite Italian restaurant a couple of miles from their house. The Muellers have been regulars for years, usually sitting unnoticed behind the bar behind the room.

Robert Mueller departs after a gathering on Capitol Hill in Washington in June (AP)

How, on this age of smartphones and cameras, does Mueller pull that off? Slip in a facet door? The proprietor, as did everybody contacted for this text, declined to remark.

In reality, nearly everybody inside Mueller’s orbit refused to speak about him. “I will cross alongside your request, however she by no means returns calls about Mueller,” defined the assistant of a lawyer who labored for him a few years in the past.

“The people who he has surrounded himself with all through his profession are temperamentally very like him,” explains Graff. “And he has a superb set of longtime buddies in DC that he primarily socialises with.

“He is somebody who attracts a fairly agency line between work and residential by way of socialising. A part of the reply is simply that the folks round him do not share the issues that they do with him.

“And he has developed a sequence of locations that he likes to go the place I feel that privateness is revered – they usually’re additionally not the trendiest eating places on 14th Avenue the place he can be recognised.”

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Even the press has been unwilling to cross Mueller’s invisible line. Salt Lake Tribune reporter Thomas Burr tweeted that he noticed Mueller in June: “Gotta love DC. Stroll into restaurant, run into the particular counsel.” However Burr declined to say which restaurant, regardless of a flurry of responses to the tweet.

A few of that is respect for Mueller. A few of that is the worry of unintentionally offering a bit of data that might compromise the Russia investigation. And a few of that is simply worry for Mueller himself.

Given the heated rhetoric surrounding Trump – and a gunman who shot up Comet Ping Pong over the Pizzagate conspiracy concept – buddies and colleagues are reluctant to say something that might hurt him in any means.

“Bob Mueller is doing precisely the suitable factor by merely specializing in this investigation and making an attempt to find out the reality,” says Panetta. “I do not know what the ultimate result’s going to be, however I’ve a way that no matter that last report exhibits that persons are going to thank Bob Mueller for the best way he dealt with this.”

We requested Mueller’s spokesman if he had a response to… effectively, something.

“We admire your reaching out,” replied Carr. “However we’ll decline remark at the moment.”

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