Thank you, Jim [Cole], for those kind words – and thank you all for being here. It’s an honor to be with you this morning, and a privilege to welcome Bob’s wife, Ann; their daughters, Cynthia and Melissa; and their families back to the Great Hall. As anyone who knows Bob can tell you, his passion for his work is exceeded only by his dedication to his family. So it’s great to have you all with us.
I also want to welcome each of our distinguished guests – especially Administrator [John] Pistole, former Director of Central Intelligence [George] Tenet, and all of the current and former Justice Department and Administration officials who are with us today. Thank you for taking the time to be here. And I’d like to thank David Margolis for being an incomparable master of ceremonies.
Normally, this is where I might say it’s a pleasure to join you for this important event. But I know this is a moment we’ve all been dreading for quite some time: the day we have to try and do our jobs without Bob Mueller. Nevertheless, I appreciate this chance to stand with such a distinguished group as we thank Bob for his dedicated service over the years; applaud his leadership as Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and celebrate his contributions in protecting our fellow citizens from crime, ensuring America’s national security, and transforming the FBI into the dynamic, threat-focused organization it is today.
Of course, Bob’s service to our nation began long before he became one of the top law enforcement officials in this country; before he served as Deputy Attorney General, or as Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division; and before he assumed his post as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California. In fact, Bob’s patriotism, and his dedication to service, have defined and distinguished just about his entire life – beginning with the moment when he graduated from college and decided to join the U.S. Marine Corps.
As a young officer, he was soon entrusted to lead a rifle platoon – of the legendary Third Marine Division – in Vietnam. For his exemplary conduct, he was awarded the Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals, the Purple Heart, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. He was praised by his superiors for his “courage, aggressive initiative, and unwavering devotion to duty.” And – as anyone who’s had the privilege of working with Bob will tell you – these qualities have remained his hallmark ever since.
I would say that he is proud to be a former serviceman – but I know there’s no such thing as a former Marine. And even after he left the Corps, earned his law degree, and became a litigator, Bob’s passion for public service quickly drew him back to the federal government – this time as a prosecutor.
Over the next two decades, he held a variety of positions in U.S. Attorneys’ offices and here at Main Justice, in Washington. He excelled in every role – overseeing high profile investigations and prosecutions, from major organized crime and financial fraud cases; to the infamous Lockerbie bombing; to the prosecution of Manuel Noriega. In every endeavor, Bob’s skill, his intellect, his excellent judgment, his humility, and his natural sense of leadership were on constant display. But I think the single best illustration of Bob Mueller’s sense of duty – and his passion for public service – actually came after he left the Justice Department, in the mid-1990s, to accept a prestigious job in private practice.
At that time, I was serving as U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, and Bob had been working in white-collar crime litigation for a couple of years. One day he called me – out of the blue – and asked if I could use a homicide prosecutor in my office. I reminded him that he already had a great job; that there was no way I’d be able to match his current salary; and that – having already served as Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division – he might be a little overqualified for a job as a line prosecutor. But, before he could change his mind, I just said “when can you start?” And before I knew it, Bob was hard at work as a senior litigator in the homicide section – heading out to crime scenes and developing strong relationships with local detectives and the people of this city. Not long after, he became chief of the homicide section, and – much to everyone’s annoyance – regularly called early-morning meetings even after he and everyone else had pulled late nights at the office. This was at a time when our nation's capital was a city in great distress – we were called the murder capital of the United States. Bob's work literally helped to save lives and also made better the lives of people who were too often unseen or forgotten.
He was eager to make a difference. And he did. And he was determined – not just to get back on the other side of the courtroom – but to serve the people of this city. To make our community safer. And to represent the interests of the United States.
That’s why it was no surprise when, in 1998, President Clinton appointed Bob to serve as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California. And, just a few years later, President Bush nominated him to become FBI Director – a position to which he was unanimously confirmed in 2001.
The rest, as they say, is history. Like many of you, I can’t imagine the Bureau – or the Justice Department or my professional life – without Bob. Since I took office as Attorney General in 2009, he and I have started nearly every day together, being briefed about the most serious recent threats against the United States and American citizens around the world.
Let me assure you, as much as I like Bob, this is not a fun way to start your day. But there’s no question that the American people are safer because Bob Mueller has been in those meetings every day for the past 12 years.
During his time as FBI Director, Bob has served as a key advisor to two Presidents, a critical member of this country’s national security team – and an indispensable partner to me. In the years since the September 11th attacks – which occurred just one week into his tenure – he has led nothing less than a large-scale, historic transformation of the Bureau. He has helped to adjust and adapt its capabilities, redefining it as an intelligence-driven agency. And he has led efforts to thwart, and to investigate, some of the most serious terrorist plots our nation has faced since 9/11.
Along the way, he has won the respect, and the admiration, of his colleagues – all of the brave men and women who serve the FBI here in Washington, across the country, and around the world. He has fostered a culture of unsurpassed excellence at every level of the Bureau – ensuring that every Special Agent, analyst, technician, and support professional is dedicated to, and incredibly effective at, protecting our national security and combating crime. He has, in short, set the standard for what it means to be the Director of the FBI – positioning the Bureau to deal with 21st century threats without losing sight of its traditional law enforcement missions.
That’s why, when his 10-year term as Director was set to expire in 2011, President Obama took the extraordinary step of asking the U.S. Senate to extend it by two full years. It’s why the Senate – once again – unanimously approved that request. And it’s why, although I regret that we’ve been unable to convince Bob and Ann to stick around for another two years – or maybe another 12 – I’m confident that he will leave this nation not only safer, but stronger and more prepared than he found it.
Bob and Ann, as you open an exciting new chapter in your lives– and, hopefully, take a long and well-deserved vacation – I wish you nothing but the best. I thank you Bob for your leadership, for your service, and – most of all – for your friendship over the many years I’ve had the good fortune of working with you. On behalf of a grateful nation I also want to thank you, Ann, for your service and sacrifice these many years. Standing with this great man has been a truly great woman.
I know I speak for President Obama, for everyone in this Great Hall today, and for many others far beyond it, when I say that – while we are confident that Jim Comey will be a superb FBI Director, and that he will continue to uphold the standards of excellence and integrity that you’ve established – all of us will miss you a great deal. Your example, and your tireless dedication, will guide and inspire us for many years to come. And wherever your career may lead you, you should know that you are, and always will be, an essential part of the Justice Department family – and a dear friend.
Before you take the podium, I’d like to make a special presentation. As Attorney General, the highest award I can bestow within the Justice Department is the Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service – which is typically presented only once each year. Today, in recognition of Bob Mueller’s leadership of the FBI, his contributions over the course of his career, and his exemplary service to the American people, it is my privilege to present him with this year’s Exceptional Service Award.
Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in a round of applause for Director Bob Mueller.