President Donald Trump made several misleading comments when questioning the impartiality of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III and his investigative team.
- Trump said, “In all fairness, Bob Mueller worked for [President] Obama for eight years.” Mueller was appointed by Republican President George W. Bush, and served longer under Bush than he did under Obama.
- He described Mueller’s team as “a group of investigators that are all Democrats.” That’s an exaggeration: 13 of the 17 team members are registered Democrats.
- Speaking of Mueller’s investigators, Trump also said, “In some cases, they went to the Hillary Clinton celebration that turned out to be a funeral.” The White House provided us with only one name.
Trump’s accusations against Mueller and his lawyers came when he was asked by a reporter on May 4 whether he had changed his mind and would be willing to sit with Mueller for an interview. Mueller and his team are investigating Russian interference into the 2016 presidential election and any possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government’s efforts.
The president questioned whether he would be “treated fairly” by the special counsel’s office.
“Well, the problem with sitting is this: You have a group of investigators, and they say that I am not a target, and I’m not a target. But you have a group of investigators that are all Democrats. In some cases, they went to the Hillary Clinton celebration that turned out to be a funeral,” Trump said.
“So you have all these investigators. They’re Democrats,” Trump added. “In all fairness, Bob Mueller worked for Obama for eight years.”
Mueller’s Tenure as FBI Director
Let’s start with Trump’s claim that, “In all fairness, Bob Mueller worked for Obama for eight years.”
In fact, Mueller was nominated by Bush in 2001 to serve as FBI director, and the Senate unanimously confirmed his appointment 98-0. Mueller took over the job on Sept. 4, 2001 and served throughout the remainder of Bush’s presidency.
Mueller continued as FBI director under Obama. In 2011, facing a 10-year term limit, Obama asked Mueller to extend his tenure by an additional two years; and the Senate again unanimously signed off on that. So Mueller served as FBI Director until Sept. 4, 2013, exactly 12 years in total.
Indeed, Mueller served longer under Bush — about seven years and four months — than he did under Obama — roughly four years and eight months.
Mueller’s Team Not ‘All Democrats’
Trump also took aim at Mueller’s investigative team, saying they are “all Democrats.” That’s an embellishment.
As we have written before, a spokesman for the special counsel told us the special counsel doesn’t maintain any records on party affiliation of the staff. However, the Washington Post reported that 13 of the 17 team members are registered Democrats. The four remaining members of the team have no party affiliation, or researchers at the Post were unable to find any record of an affiliation.
Six of the nine team members who have made contributions to federal candidates gave money to Obama’s presidential campaigns, totaling at least $11,436. Five of the team members donated a total of $8,800 to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. Information on the contributions is available through the Center for Responsive Politics’ website.
We should also note, Mueller was described as a registered Republican by the Washington Post when Bush first appointed him as FBI director in 2001. He was appointed special counsel last year by Rod Rosenstein, a Republican who was tapped by Trump to be deputy attorney general.
Rosenstein told a Senate panel last year that political donations are “not a disqualification” for a lawyer serving on the Russia investigation.
Mueller’s Team at Clinton Party
Trump also claimed that, “In some cases, they [Mueller team investigators] went to the Hillary Clinton celebration that turned out to be a funeral.”
Asked for backup for that claim, the White House press office referred us to an article in the Wall Street Journal, which reported that Andrew Weissmann, now a Mueller deputy, “attended Hillary Clinton‘s election-night party at the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York, according to people familiar with his attendance.”
At the time, the Wall Street Journal states, Weissmann was running the Justice Department’s fraud section. As a member of Mueller’s special counsel team, the paper notes, Weissmann led the cases against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and campaign aide Rick Gates.
So that’s one, but not “some,” as the president says. His press office did not provide information that any other Mueller team investigator attended Clinton’s election-night event.