— John Sipher (@john_sipher) April 13, 2018
David Priess, at Lawfareblog:
When Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Bob Mueller as special counsel to investigate Russian election interference, I found myself neither surprised that Mueller had been tapped nor shocked when he accepted the call to duty…
The challenge Mueller agreed to tackle looked deep and wide: everything from the capability and intent of foreign governments and individuals, to the use and abuse of social media, to the labyrinth of international financial transactions. It was daunting, to say the least, even with the top-notch team of specialists he then gathered. My confidence nevertheless ran high that this complicated investigation would get the comprehensive treatment it demanded and be handled with the utmost integrity.
This trust in Mueller and his investigation didn’t come out of the blue. For more than a year, while serving as a CIA officer, I was his daily intelligence briefer in his role as director of the FBI. Five, often six, days a week I delivered to him the president’s daily brief (PDB) as well as voluminous other pieces of intelligence information and analytic assessments, primarily on terrorism…
The relationship between daily intelligence briefers and their “customers,” as CIA officers for many decades have called senior policy makers, is a special one. The details of the briefing materials—including, but not limited to, information about intelligence sources and methods—and the sensitive conversations in that room remain sacred. I won’t discuss those things here, or anywhere.
But presenting complex information to Mueller, watching him digest it, answering his inevitable questions, and chatting with him and his staff on the margins of the sessions afforded me insight that I can appropriately share regarding his approach to complex problem sets—from L’Affaire Russe to Mueller’s personal style. This experience gave me confidence then about the fight against terrorism and the integrity of the Bureau under his watch, and it gives me confidence now in the work he is doing as special counsel.
What stood out to me most upon my starting the job, just months after 9/11, were Mueller’s attention to detail and his desire to understand how the CIA analysts arrived at their assessments. For a while, most of my briefings devolved into de facto intelligence hazing rituals. I discovered the hard way that when my presentation casually offered judgments lacking robust sourcing or logic, Mueller would ask me about the substantiation or argumentation until either my desperate searching through background materials could satisfy him or—more often in those first few months—I admitted that I’d have to get back to him after talking to the experts on that issue.
He wasn’t sending me down rabbit holes for the joy of doing so; he simply didn’t seem to trust analysis anchored to weak evidence or unclear reasoning. Inevitably, my follow-up on his questions resulted in either a quick nod of thanks or, particularly during the early briefings, another set of questions sending me back for more. Never did I feel that I’d been sent on a fishing expedition. Anything that initially appeared to be a tangent ended up having a purpose, usually to help him bring into focus one of the many pictures we were puzzling over…
Read the whole thing — it’s not long! — and take heart.