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While He Stays Silent, Others Have Tried To Define Robert Mueller's Persona


It has been one year since special counsel Robert Mueller began investigating Russian interference in the presidential election. And in that time, he has made exactly one public statement. On May 17, 2017, he said, quote, "I accept this responsibility and will discharge it to the best of my ability." That's it. So over the past year, Mueller's persona has been defined by others. NPR's Miles Parks has more.

MILES PARKS, BYLINE: On the satire website The Onion, Robert Mueller is a sort of private eye superhero. He goes undercover as a janitor in the White House for 13 days. He eats 20 chicken McNuggets in one sitting to, quote, "get into Trump's mind."

CHAD NACKERS: He's so mysterious. And you don't really know about him that he can also be kind of omnipotent and, like, kind of the boogeyman for the right and then this knight in shining armor for the left.

PARKS: Chad Nackers is the Onion's editor-in-chief. The Onion's coverage is one example of what happens when someone with such a high profile doesn't define himself. Nackers compared writing Mueller to writing the president.

NACKERS: Trump himself is a little bit more challenging just because he's already very hyperbolic and often says things that are either tongue-in-cheek or falsehoods. And so it's hard to build satire off of a lie. You know, you need to build it off of the truth.

PARKS: The same way Trump's opponents have painted Mueller as a superhero, Trump supporters have painted him as a sort of grand inquisitor run amok. Trump repeated a common line again on Thursday that Mueller is in charge of a witch hunt. Mark Rosenberg is trying to quantify the Mueller mystery. He's the CEO of the political risk firm GeoQuant. The company launched an index earlier this year to track developments in the Mueller investigation and how they affect capital markets. He said he thought there were only three people in the U.S. with more influence on markets right now.

MARK ROSENBERG: Obviously Trump has that power and the governor of the central bank, Jerome Powell, perhaps the treasury secretary but then probably Mr. Mueller.

PARKS: Mueller wasn't a household name a year ago. But without saying a word, he got an impersonation by Robert De Niro on "Saturday Night Live."


ROBERT DE NIRO: (As Robert Mueller) Now, you listen to me, you little weasel. I don't know what rights you think you have. You broke the law.

PARKS: Comedians and pundits will continue speaking for Robert Mueller at least until he starts speaking for himself. Miles Parks, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Miles Parks is a reporter on NPR's Washington Desk. He covers voting and elections, and also reports on breaking news.