The Great Mueller Rebellion

Robert Mueller nearly resigned when Bush considered eavesdropping reauthorization.

By SHARE

It seems the longest-serving director of the FBI since J. Edgar Hoover almost wasn't. In Enemies: A History of the FBI, released Tuesday, New York Times correspondent Tim Weiner recounts a crucial week in March 2004, when President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were confronted with a rebellion by members of their own administration. 

Attorney General John Ashcroft, his deputy James Comey, and FBI Director Robert Mueller refused to support the president's reauthorization of Stellar Wind, an eavesdropping program that violated constitutional protections against warrantless searches and seizures. [Read: U.S. Government Still Pays Two Civil War Pensions.]

"Mueller told Bush face-to-face that he would resign if the FBI was ordered to continue warrantless searches on Americans without an order from the Department of Justice," writes Weiner. Mueller had even drafted his resignation letter. In response, "The president pleaded ignorance of the law and the facts," Weiner writes.

Bush would later describe his decision to retreat on the program as avoiding a "historical crisis." Mueller "never breathed a word of what happened at the White House," writes Weiner.

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