May 16, 2018

What we're reading: The year in Vietnam that shaped Robert Mueller

Mueller veiled in shadows

Photo: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

WIRED’s latest cover story, on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s year in the Vietnam War, shines new light on the how he thinks, works and leads.

Why it matters: Mueller and Trump, two men from similar backgrounds but vastly divergent lives, are on opposite sides of a political face-off. One’s presence in the media is ubiquitous, and the other is shrouded in mystery.

The big picture...

  • Mueller and Trump's divergent paths "began with Vietnam, the conflict that tore the country apart just as both men graduated from college in the 1960s."
  • "Trump famously drew five draft deferments ... He would later joke, repeatedly, that his success at avoiding sexually transmitted diseases while dating numerous women in the 1980s was 'my personal Vietnam. I feel like a great and very brave soldier.'"
  • "Mueller ... spent a year waiting for an injured knee to heal so he could serve. ... When he was leading the FBI through the catastrophe of 9/11 and its aftermath, he would brush off the crushing stress, saying, 'I’m getting a lot more sleep now than I ever did in Vietnam.'"

The war...

  • Mueller climbed the ranks in the Vietnam War, eventually ending his military career as a captain.
  • "Hotel Company quickly came to understand that its new platoon leader was no Gold Bricker [a derisive term for new young second lieutenants like Mueller]. 'He wanted to know as much as he could as fast as he could about the terrain, what we did, the ambushes, everything,” [Mueller's platoon-mate VJ] Maranto says. 'He was all about the mission, the mission, the mission.'"
  • During one particularly bloody battle, "Mueller realized quickly how much trouble the platoon was in. 'That day was the second heaviest fire I received in Vietnam,' former Marine David Harris says. 'Lieutenant Mueller was directing traffic, positioning people and calling in air strikes. He was standing upright, moving. He probably saved our hide.'"
  • "For Mueller, the battle had proved both to him and his men that he could lead. 'The minute the shit hit the fan, he was there,' Maranto says. 'He performed remarkably. After that night, there were a lot of guys who would’ve walked through walls for him.'"

The investigation...

  • "If Mueller’s discipline is reflected in the silence of his team, his relentlessness has been abundantly evident in the pace of indictments, arrests, and legal maneuvers coming out of his office."
  • The big thing: The known unknowns — how much more Mueller knows that is publicly unknown — are what spooks Trump allies most.

Go deeper with WIRED's story by Garrett Graff.

Go deeper