Marco Grob / TIME time cover mueller...
Marco Grob / TIME

The cover story of Time Magazine’s July 3 edition on Special Counsel Mueller and his upcoming  investigation into the nether world of drumpf’s campaign collusion, obstruction, associations and finances reads like a program for a much anticipated sporting match, but, instead of bragging rights for a day, the careers and reputations of two men of much different dispositions and loyalties are staked in a winner take all grudge match between one man who has, with a few hiccups, spent his professional life upholding the law and another who has, for the most part, barely managed to stay one step ahead of it — a streak which may be coming to an ignominious end.

David Von Drehle, the article’s author, begins with concise but thorough paragraphs describing how each team has found it’s way to the playing field where the epic struggle will unfold.

On one side:

“Now he’s (Trump) learning the local folklore the hard way. The first law of holes is, if you’re in one, stop digging. Three times, Trump heard assurances from former FBI director James Comey that the Russia investigation wasn’t aimed at him. Instead of putting his shovel down, though, Trump worked it furiously. According to Comey’s sworn testimony, Trump pushed the G-man for a public exoneration, and when Comey demurred, he may have pressed his case with Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers. Unsatisfied, he fired Comey in ham-fisted fashion, then reportedly boasted to Russian visitors that he did it to take pressure off the investigation. Now he’s in the hounded condition of various predecessors: struggling to regain control of the agenda, lashing out at aides, shouting at television sets and peppering his dig-the-hole-deeper tweets with all-caps exasperation.”

On the other:

“In 1989, Mueller moved to Washington, where he soon took charge of the entire Justice Department’s criminal division. Under his watch, department lawyers prosecuted major cases involving terrorism, organized crime, drugs and money laundering. Although his voter registration said Republican, Mueller earned the confidence of leaders in both parties. In 1998, Democrat Bill Clinton appointed him U.S. Attorney for Northern California. Republican George W. Bush called him back to Washington as Deputy Attorney General, then picked him to lead the FBI in 2001. Mueller’s first official day at the Hoover Building was Sept. 4. A week later, terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington plunged the bureau into one of the most tumultuous periods in its history. Mueller’s challenge was to transform a primarily domestic law-enforcement agency into a global counterterrorism force–while breaking down cultural barriers to information sharing and pulling the paper-pushing bureau into the digital age. Many agents found Mueller to be bullheaded as he shook up personnel rules and rammed through technology updates. And he made mistakes, including a botched investigation of the 2001 anthrax attacks in D.C., Florida, New York and New Jersey, in which an innocent man was hounded in the press while Mueller and his agents ignored the real killer. But overall, in the judgment of FBI historian Ronald Kessler, no director in the modern era “has had a greater positive impact on the bureau than Mueller.”

The teams are matched then.

Vietnam vet vs. Draft Dodging Playboy.

Career Cop vs. Slippery Con-man.

Honor vs. Ignobility.

Our Republic’s fate rests in the outcome.

Von Drehle places his wager:

“It was tempting, as the wheels of another Washington investigation accelerated away from the station, to say that we’ve seen this all before, though never with a protagonist quite like President Trump. In his outsize personality and unmasked audacity, he’s making it clear that this all-too-familiar story has roots much deeper than even the most shopworn Washington lore. It goes back to the Greeks, who understood that the peril of kings was hubris, and that hubris was an invitation to the avenging goddess called Nemesis. In Robert Mueller, Trump may have found his.”

The full piece is well worth your time.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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