Her family wanted a puppy, so Alicia Barnett dreamed they would find one that was smart, steady and a bit mysterious. She hoped their new addition could share a personality — and a name — with the man who has become her rather unlikely idol.
And so, the Barnetts’ new chocolate Lab was christened Mueller — an homage to the stoic special prosecutor appointed to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether members of the Trump campaign played any part.
For devoted Democrats like Barnett, Robert Mueller has become a sort of folk hero since his appointment in May 2017. To them, he represents calm in the face of a storm, quiet in a city of bombast, a symbol of hope that a presidency they view as dishonorable might soon face some type of consequences.
“He gives me reassurance that all is not lost,” says Barnett, who lives with her family and Mueller the puppy in Kansas City, Kansas. “I admire his mystique. I admire that I haven’t heard his voice. He is someone who can sift through all this mess and come up with a rationale that makes sense to everyone.”
The special counsel — a 74-year-old registered Republican, Marine and former director the FBI — has even inspired his own genre of arts and crafts. One can buy Mueller paintings, prayer candles, valentines and ornaments. A necklace, earrings, keychains. A stuffed toy of Mueller in a Superman outfit, cross-stitch patterns, baby onesies — even an illustration of his haircut to hang on the wall.
“Stare at Special Counsel Mueller’s crisp coiffure for three minutes and you will notice a sense of calm come over you,” that artist, Oakland, California-based Wayne Shellabarger, wrote in his online listing for a $10 print. “That’s a haircut you can set your watch to.”
Mueller has become a boogeyman for many of President Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters, as the leader of the investigation the president derides as a “witch hunt.” But his fans often speak of him in soaring analogies. Barnett imagines him as a duck’s legs: kicking heroically to keep things afloat but under the water, out of view. Karen Adler, a Placerville, California, crafter who sells a coffee mug with Mueller dressed as a saint and wearing a crown of laurels “for victory,” describes him as “Paul Bunyan-esque,” a man of superhuman labor. Shellabarger thinks of him “almost like Bigfoot,” a mystical creature rarely seen in public.
Mueller has remained completely silent as the ceaseless speculation about his investigation turned him into one of the most famous men in America. He hasn’t given a single interview, and his office does not leak.
When Kim Six posted her cross-stitch tribute to Mueller on her Facebook page, some people told her to keep politics out of crafting. The framed stitching featured the letters “M.A.G.A.” down the side, a reference to Trump’s “Make American Great Again” slogan but with these words substituted: “Mueller Ain’t Going Away.” Her critics assumed she was far-left, but she considers herself a centrist, having voted in the past for moderate Republicans.