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President Bush Nominates Robert Mueller to Be FBI Director

Aired July 5, 2001 - 11:29   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We are standing by to take you live to the White House. We're expecting, at any minute, President Bush to come out. He is coming out to announce his choice to lead the FBI. This after Louis Freeh had announced that he is leaving the FBI and wrapped up his service.

President Bush's next choice for the nomination is Robert Mueller, a veteran of the Justice Department and a veteran prosecutor as well.

Our Justice Correspondent Kelli Arena is standing by, waiting for this announcement.

Kelli, as you had reported earlier, Mr. Mueller's name has been around for a while as the search has gone on for the next FBI director.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, it emerged very early in the search. He was said to be supported by both Attorney General John Ashcroft and his top aides. There was some hesitation, though, we are told by some administration sources, to make sure that he was the right man for the job. As you know, the FBI has faced an awful lot of criticism in recent months, most recently having to do with the late turnover of the documents regarding the Timothy McVeigh case.

So they wanted to make sure that this person would not only be able to deal with the issues of international terrorism and running the FBI, but also the political issues of dealing with that criticism in many of the ongoing investigations that are under way and that we're waiting for the results from -- Daryn.

KAGAN: It looks like now we can see President Bush, and I would imagine he would have -- as he does -- the Attorney General John Ashcroft with him and Mr. Mueller.

Let's go ahead and listen in to the president.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... thank you all for coming. General, thank you for being here.

It is my honor to nominate Robert S. Mueller of California to become the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I want to welcome his wife, Ann (ph), here, and I want to welcome you all to the Rose Garden.

When confirmed, Mr. Mueller will be only the sixth person to hold this position. He assumes great responsibilities. He was chosen with great care and he has my full confidence.

Bob Mueller earned my trust and that of the attorney general when he served as an acting deputy attorney general earlier this year. He also has earned the confidence of other presidents before me. He's the current U.S. attorney for the northern district of California. He was appointed that position by President Clinton. He served in my father's administration as well. Before that, he was U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, making him one of the very few ever to serve as chief federal prosecutor in two jurisdictions.

Our next FBI director has given nearly all his career to public service, going back to his days in the Marine Corps. He served with distinction and was decorated during the Vietnam War. As a lawyer, prosecutor and government official, he has shown high ideals, a clear sense of purpose and attested devotion to his country.

As director, Mr. Mueller will succeed a good and honest man, Director Louis Freeh, who has my respect and the gratitude of our nation.

I also want to thank Acting Director Pickard, who has served well during this transition.

The FBI has a great tradition that Mr. Mueller must now affirm and some important challenges he must confront.

Like the Department of Justice, the FBI must remain independent of politics, and uncompromising in its mission.

Bob Mueller's term in office will last longer than my own. And the next 10 years will bring new forms of crime, new threats of terror, from beyond our borders and within them. The tools of law enforcement will change as well. And the FBI must be ready to protect Americans from new types of criminals who will use modern technology to defraud and disrupt our society.

The bureau must secure its rightful place as the premier counterespionage and counterterrorist organization in the United States. It must continue to serve as a resource and training center for law enforcement. And it must do all of this with a firm commitment to safeguarding the constitutional rights of our citizens.

Bob Mueller's experience and character convinced me that he's ready to shoulder these responsibilities. Agents of the bureau prize three virtues above all: fidelity, bravery, and integrity. This new director is a man who exemplifies them all.

Congratulations.

ROBERT S. MUELLER, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION DIRECTOR NOMINEE: Thank you very much, Mr. President, thank you, sir.

I am deeply honored by the trust that President Bush has shown in nominating me to head the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI is the foremost law enforcement agency in the world. I look forward to the confirmation process. And if confirmed, I look forward to working with the thousands of dedicated men and women who are agents and employees of the FBI, to enforce our nation's laws fairly and with respect to the rights of all Americans.

Again, thank you, Mr. President, for the confidence you've shown in me. Thank you, sir.

BUSH: Congratulations.

MUELLER: Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you very much.

BUSH: Thank you all for coming.

MUELLER: Thank you all for coming.

(APPLAUSE)

KAGAN: Comments there from the man that President Bush wants to be the next man to head up the FBI, Robert Mueller, a U.S. attorney now serving in San Francisco, who has a long history with the Bush family and also in government.

Let's bring in our White House correspondent Major Garrett.

Major, Robert Mueller's name has been on the list for awhile, but it did take some time for President Bush to decide that this was his man.

MAJOR GARRETT, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It took a little bit of time. Senior advisers tell us that the president really wanted to make sure not only that he got this decision right, but that he and his advisers looked as far and wide as they could to find the best candidate to run the FBI, as Kelli Arena pointed out, an agency troubled by not only the Robert Hanssen counterespionage case and the Timothy McVeigh document case, but other matters as well. This president knows the FBI is under intense scrutiny right now, not only for it's law enforcement, but constitutional duties. The president wanted to make sure his advisers got the message: Look as far and wide as you can, cast a wide net, as one adviser told us, to find the right man.

As I mentioned earlier, the president had dinner with him a couple of weeks ago and was very impressed, not with his credentials, but their person rapport. Of course, that's critical to this president; he likes to relate to people whom he trusts one on one. That happened at that dinner, but still, time was taken to make sure all available candidates were checked out. Ultimately, the president made the decision.

Interesting in his remarks that he brought some attention to the kind of things the FBI will have to deal with in the future: dealing with counterterrorism; dealing with counterintelligence; and also something that the FBI director who's long since left, Louis Freeh, tried to work on, dealing with cybercrime. The president talked about how there will be threats to disrupt our systems, meaning computer systems. He knows the FBI is going to have to tackle that as well as all the other, typical crime it has always had to deal with.

So indeed, a very big job ahead for Mr. Mueller, but as the president said, he has served not only President Clinton, as U.S. attorney in northern California, but his father was head of the criminal division at the Justice Department. So he brings a rather substantial law enforcement record to this job -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Major Garrett, at the White House.

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