[What follows is excerpted from an article published today on the CNN Politics website:]
[Robert] Mueller, now 73, began his Department of Justice career in 1976 as an assistant US attorney in San Francisco, and during the decades that followed took only two breaks to try out the private sector, each lasting no more than a couple of years.
The stints were so short-lived because of a simple fact, according to Graff: Mueller couldn't stand defending those he felt were guilty. (...)
That black-and-white outlook served Mueller well at the Department of Justice, where he oversaw some of the highest-profile cases of the last few decades including the prosecution of mobster John Gotti and Panamanian Dictator Manuel Noriega. But it was his investigation into the 1988 terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland that would most profoundly affect him.
"It was a very personal and a pivotal investigation of his career," according to Lisa Monaco, who served as Mueller's chief of staff when he was FBI director. "It is something that has stuck with him, and I think it was because he was so affected by walking the ground in Lockerbie after that plane went down, seeing the remnants of that plane, seeing the piecing together of the plane and the Christmas presents the passengers on that plane were carrying home to their family members, and seeing that all literally get pieced together in a warehouse in Scotland at the beginning of the investigation."
For years after the trial of the two Libyan terrorists, Mueller would quietly attend the annual December memorial service organized by the families, consoling those he had come to know well. When Scottish authorities announced in 2009 that they were releasing the one terrorist convicted in the case, Mueller was outraged.
"That did not sit well with him. He thought it was an injustice, a fundamental injustice for the families, and he did something very out-of-the-ordinary for him," Monaco said.
Mueller wrote a scathing letter to the Scottish authorities, saying in part, "your action makes a mockery of the grief of the families who lost their own. ... Where, I ask, is the justice?"
It was an unusual outpouring of emotion for a man who, according to those closest to him, regularly keeps to himself.