CAFE Insider Newsletter #33

CAFE Insider Newsletter #33


Dear Reader,

While the country moves on this week to the Congressional testimony of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller, I didn’t want the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing to pass without saying my own two cents about it. The moon, one could say, does not like to be eclipsed.

Two Americans walked the moon three months before I was born, but while I can have no personal memory of it, like all earthlings outside of the flat earth society, the moment is indelibly etched in my own brain.

Two weeks ago, I took my eldest to Boston for a final father-daughter trip before she heads to college. Patriotic inspiration was everywhere – we trudged the freedom trail, inspected the house of Paul Revere, even simulated the Boston Tea Party. But none of those packed any more visceral patriotic punch than the Apollo 11 exhibit at the John F. Kennedy Library, which we visited on our final day. While not a reminder of our national birth, Kennedy’s famous challenge to complete a moon mission “in this decade” and subsequent success in 1969 said something strong about American resolve, purpose, and courage. Like everyone else, I basked in the remembrances and delighted in the ingenious projection of the Saturn V rocket onto the Washington Monument.

But then historian Michael Beschloss – God bless historians – posted something on Twitter I had never seen before, and it took my breath away, moved me like no other part of the national celebration. It was the speech William Safire wrote for President Nixon in case our astronauts could not get back home. It is both stirring and utterly jarring, from the heading (“IN EVENT OF MOON DISASTER”) to the postscript (“The President should telephone each of the widows -to-be.”). And, quaint masculine nouns aside, it is perfect.

This is it:


Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.

These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.

These two men are laying down their lives in mankind’s most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.

They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by their nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.

In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.

In ancient days, men looked at stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.

Others will follow, and surely find their way home. Man’s search will not be denied. But these men were the first, and they will remain the foremost in our hearts.

For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.


The President should telephone each of the widows -to-be.”


It is awful to read – this tragic and rhythmic rhetoric, held in reserve, written just in case. In case the nation needed reassurance and comfort and a collective expression of grief. The speech is a tangible glimpse of a horrible alternate reality, which makes concrete the fragility of success. All week you celebrate the event as we all have been and then you read the backup speech, imagine the other scenario. And a lump forms in your throat. And you picture, in your mind’s eye, stranded astronauts, grieving widows, devastated citizens. You are struck by how easily things could have been otherwise, for this first and most fraught mission, especially knowing of later space calamities like Apollo 13 and the Space Shuttle Challenger.

I am struck by something else also. That someone took the care to write so beautifully about the unthinkable. Because the nation would need it.

For me at least, Safire’s eloquent and mournful articulation of what could have been but wasn’t, more than any monument or memento, reveals the courage of a country and its first emissaries to the moon.

My best,

July 24, 1969: From left to right, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin Jnr, the crew of the historic Apollo 11 moon landing mission are subjected to a period of quarantine upon their return to earth. Through the window of their Mobile Quarantine Facility, they hold a conversation with President Richard Nixon






When TIME named Robert Mueller one of the most influential people of 2018, the magazine enlisted Preet to share his thoughts about the former FBI director and Vietnam War veteran. Paying homage to such an iconic legal figure in the midst of one of the most contentious investigations in American history was no easy feat, but it was clear that what warranted highlighting is Mueller’s aversion to political spectacles. As Preet reflected in his TIME profile of Mueller:
Mueller’s buttoned-down discretion has made him an enigmatic vessel into which polarized sides pour their hopes and fears. To millions, the special counsel is either a political savior or berserk villain. He is neither. He’s a by-the-book lawman who, with nothing to prove and a lifetime of service behind him, agreed to lead the most fraught, least understood, highest-stakes investigation of our time. For that we owe him incalculable thanks.


Robert S. Mueller, III in his marine uniform in circa 1967.
Robert Swan Mueller III was born in New York City in 1944 and raised outside of Philadelphia. His father was a World War II Navy veteran and an executive at DuPont. Mueller graduated from Princeton University in 1966 and enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps after a college friend was killed in the Vietnam War. His first attempt to join the Marines was unsuccessful due to a knee injury. As he was recovering, Mueller earned a master’s degree in international relations at New York University and married his high school sweetheart Ann Standish, a teacher.

In 1968, Mueller was deployed to Vietnam as a Marine lieutenant and rifle platoon leader, serving as an active-duty officer for four years. He was awarded a Bronze Star with “V” for combat valor recognizing him for the rescue of a wounded Marine under enemy fire. In a separate battle, Mueller was shot in the thigh, but returned to lead his platoon. He was commended for his service with two Navy Commendation Medals, the Purple Heart, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. Mueller has said that his combat years heightened his sense of duty and “compelled [him] to try to give back in some way.”

On November 9, 2011, Mueller reflected on his military service while speaking at the Justice Department’s Veterans Appreciation Ceremony:

“The Marine Corps taught me the value of sacrifice, teamwork, and discipline—the same values inherent in every branch of the military. I also credit the military with shaping my life in terms of public service. My years in Vietnam—the experiences I shared with my fellow Marines—shaped my world view. I consider myself exceptionally lucky to have made it out of Vietnam. There were many who did not. And perhaps because I did survive, I have always felt compelled to contribute.  I would not be who I am today had I not served in the military. I would not have been as prepared for the challenges I have faced, both in my professional and personal life. I was a Marine first, and that set the foundation for everything that followed.”

Following his military service, Mueller went on to graduate from the University of Virginia Law School in 1973 and became a prosecutor. He served for 12 years in U.S. attorney’s offices in California and then Massachusetts. After a brief stint in private practice, he returned to the Justice Department as an assistant to Attorney General Richard L. Thornburgh in 1989 and a year later assumed the role of Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Criminal Division. After another brief stint in private practice, he again returned to public service, joining the Homicide Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C., and was later appointed to lead the U.S. Attorney Office in San Francisco, a position he held until 2001.

President George W. Bush nominated Mueller to lead the FBI in July 2001. He was unanimously confirmed by the Senate—in a 98–0 vote in favor of his appointment—and sworn in on September 4, 2001, just one week before the September 11 terrorist attacks. Mueller’s 10-year term as FBI director was extended for two years by President Barack Obama with unanimous Senate approval. Mueller returned to private practice after his FBI tenure, as a partner at WilmerHale in Washington, D.C. In May 2017, then-deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel to oversee the investigation into ties between President Trump’s campaign and Russian officials during the 2016 presidential election. The rest, as they say, is history.

To get a better sense of Mueller as a person and the experiences that have shaped him, read this Wired profile by Mueller biographer Garrett M. Graff. And to grasp Mueller as a witness, watch a compilation of his exchanges with lawmakers during congressional hearings.

If you were Mueller, would you have accepted the special counsel gig at the tail-end of a storied career? Let us know by replying to this email or writing to us at [email protected].


Counting down the minutes to Mueller’s testimony? So are we. Don’t miss a second of the testimony by watching C-SPAN’s free live stream and following @CSPAN for coverage highlights. C-SPAN has one of the most comprehensive video archives of governmental and political content, so you can rely on their expansive collection to find and watch Capital Hill’s greatest hits.


This week we are interrupting our regularly scheduled Stay Tunedprogramming to bring you special coverage of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s highly anticipated congressional testimony. Starting at 8:30am ET on Wednesday, Mueller will testify for three hours before the House Judiciary Committee followed by approximately two hours before the House Intelligence Committee. This is the first time that Mueller will answer lawmakers’ questions about his report examining Russian influence on the 2016 presidential election. Preet and Anne will breakdown Mueller’s testimony, discussing what he said and what he didn’t.

Don’t forget to listen to this week’s episode and the special Stay Tuned bonus exclusive for Insiders. It drops this Thursday, July 25.


If you haven’t already, listen to the latest episode of CAFE Insider podcast: “Mueller Time, At Last.” Preet and Anne previewed Mueller’s testimony and discussed the significance of SDNY’s now-concluded hush money investigation into Michael Cohen.

*Please note, you may now manually add your unique Insider Podcast feed to your favorite podcast app. Here are the instructions.

That’s it for this week. We hope you’re enjoying CAFE Insider. Reply to this email or write to us at [email protected] with your thoughts, suggestions, and questions.

— The CAFE Team

Tamara Sepper, Carla Pierini, Julia Doyle, Calvin Lord, Vinay Basti, and Aaron Dalton