RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We're getting reaction this morning to the announcement by the Justice Department that former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been named a special counsel to investigate Russia's meddling in last year's presidential election. Mueller will report to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. We are joined now by former Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman. Her time in government coincided with Mueller's. She served on the House intelligence committee.
Thanks so much for being with us.
JANE HARMAN: Thank you, Rachel.
MARTIN: Before we get to the choice of Bob Mueller, let me get your reaction to the fact that the Department of Justice has decided to put this investigation into the hands of an independent body.
HARMAN: It was inevitable. There seemed to be no way out of the slip-ups and mistakes, and everyone was tainted. I mean, if it turned out - and it apparently did - that Jeff Sessions was involved in writing a memo for the president with Rod Rosenstein, a question came up - why was he doing that? And why would Rosenstein have permitted that given the fact that Sessions had recused himself?
So I think it was either this or a 9/11-type commission. And I think Rosenstein, so far as I know - so far as reported - and I have no inside information, acted alone and did the absolutely right thing picking the absolutely right person.
MARTIN: You say he's the absolutely right person. Many others are agreeing with you. But why do you think that Bob Mueller is so well-suited to this?
HARMAN: Well, I first met Bob Mueller when I was a senior Democrat on the House intelligence committee. And it was about three days after 9/11, and he'd just began his tenure as FBI director. Timing was awful. And the FBI was part of the problem on 9/11. Parts of it didn't talk to itself, let alone the CIA. And Mueller came in at the worst time, certainly in modern history, and had to pick up the pieces. And he did.
And he served his full tenure of 10 years. And served - in fact, I think he was there longer than 10 years.
HARMAN: Might have been there 12 years, and he served magnificently. So he knows the building. He has the support of the FBI. And the FBI will have to share material with him in this role. And he is, you know, a straight arrow, a hard-working, a no-press-conference-type lawyer - just perfect.
MARTIN: Let me ask you. When you served in Congress, you had a leading role on the House intelligence committee. How do you expect Mueller to go about working with the intel committees on Capitol Hill, committees that are still pursuing their own investigations?
HARMAN: Well, I don't know the answer to that. They'll have to figure that out. But he has his own mandate, which is to explore how Russia might have influenced the 2016 election. And he will pursue that. He will lead the pursuit of that. And my guess is they will call him to testify - or may. But he can't testify - I don't think - about anything to do with the pending investigation. Maybe he'll do - he'll talk about his methodology, or he'll talk about things they might usually do. But this is an impeccable lawyer. He knows how to go dark when necessary to pursue the task. And for 12 years, he had the utmost respect.
MARTIN: Let me just finish by asking you, can you and other Democrats accept Mueller's conclusions if they don't confirm that the president did anything wrong?
HARMAN: I am not speaking for the Democratic Party or the Democrats in the House. I'm speaking for myself. I think whatever he turns up will be the product of the deepest possible research and probity and methodology, and that's what we need in the country to heal us.
MARTIN: Jane Harman, former congresswoman. She's now president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center. Thanks so much for your time this morning.
HARMAN: Thank you, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.