Robert Mueller is assembling a ‘dream team’ of prosecutors

For those Tea-Publicans who have abandoned all reason for blind loyalty to the authoritarian personality cult of Donald J. Trump, and who have convinced themselves that their Dear Leader is either a naife who is innocent of any and all wrongdoing, or is above the law, I would suggest you consider the legal team that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is putting together for his investigation. If there is “nothing to see here,” as Trump apologists delusionally assert, Mueller would not be assembling a “dream team” of heavy-hitter prosecutors. He clearly believes that he is sitting on something “yuuuge.”

Politico reports, Everything we know about the Mueller probe so far:

Special counsel Robert Mueller is assembling a prosecution team with decades of experience going after everything from Watergate to the Mafia to Enron as he digs in for a lengthy probe into possible collusion between Russia and President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

His first appointments — tapping longtime law-firm partner James Quarles and Andrew Weissmann, the head of the Justice Department’s criminal fraud unit — were the opening moves in a politically red-hot criminal case that has upended the opening months of the Trump White House.

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Mueller brings a wealth of national security experience from his time leading the FBI in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Veteran prosecutors say he has assembled a potent team whose members have backgrounds handling cases involving politicians, mobsters and others — and who know how to work potential witnesses if it helps them land bigger fish.

Here’s a rundown of everything we know about Mueller’s probe so far:

Who’s on Mueller’s staff?

Mueller’s prosecution team is full of familiar faces — to him.

He already has picked three former colleagues from his last job as a partner at the Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr law firm: Aaron Zebley, who also was Mueller’s FBI chief of staff; Jeannie Rhee, a former DOJ attorney; and Quarles, who got his start in Washington some four decades ago as an assistant Watergate prosecutor.

But Mueller’s biggest hire to date was Weissmann, who is taking a leave from his current post leading the Justice Department’s criminal fraud section. The two men have a long history together at the FBI, where Weissmann served as both the bureau’s general counsel from 2011 to 2013 and as Mueller’s special counsel in 2005.

Weissmann’s prosecution record includes overseeing the investigations into more than 30 people while running the Enron Task Force, including CEOs Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling. And while working in the U.S. attorney’s office in the eastern district of New York, he tried more than 25 cases involving members of the Genovese, Colombo and Gambino crime families.

Note: As head of the Justice Department’s criminal fraud section, at the close of his first year on the job, the Justice Department saw the biggest 365 days in Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement history.  The Trump and Kushner real estate empires, as well as Paul Manafort, should be concerned that this guy is going to find their links to Russian Oligarch money.

This past week, Deutsche Bank Stonewalls Dems On Trump Loans And Russia: “Deutsche Bank has refused to release information on loans to Donald Trump and any possible connections to Russia requested by members of the House Financial Services Committee.” Deutche Bank has been the target of a major criminal investigation by the federal government for money laundering of Russian money. Under international law enforcement agreements, the FBI, FinCEN, and now the Special Counsel may obtain the financial records for which Democrats on the House Financial Services Committeeare are being stonewalled by Deutche Bank. “Follow the money.”

Former Obama DOJ spokeswoman Emily Pierce called Weissmann “an inspired choice” to help Mueller lead the Russia probe.

As a fraud and foreign bribery expert, he knows how to follow the money. Who knows what they will find, but if there is something to be found, he will find it,” she said.

Mueller has more spaces to fill. Cliff Stricklin, a former assistant U.S. attorney who worked with Weissmann on the Enron case, said the “ideal team for something like this” would be around six to eight prosecutors.

The special counsel will also add administrative assistants and is likely to tap experts from other agencies as specialized needs arise. That could include Treasury Department staffers who know about money laundering or IRS agents who could help untangle complicated tax returns. FBI agents also are likely to cycle through, though that number isn’t likely to be very large.

“I’d not expect a massive army of agents here by any stretch,” Buell said.

Carr, the Mueller spokesman, said the special prosecutor is initially “focused on providing a management structure to oversee ongoing matters” in the Russia probe, and he said the number of staffers who will be appointed to join the probe “will be determined by the needs of the investigation.”

Mueller’s latest hire is Michael Dreeben, one of the federal government’s top criminal law specialists. Top criminal law expert joins special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe:

Justice Department deputy solicitor general Michael Dreeben, who has argued more than 100 cases before the Supreme Court, is the department’s go-to lawyer on criminal justice cases and is highly respected by Democrats and Republicans because of his encyclopedic knowledge of criminal law.

Dreeben will work part time for Mueller, according to Justice officials, while he continues to oversee the department’s criminal appellate cases.

Former and current Justice Department officials say that Mueller’s recruitment of Dreeben shows how serious he is about the investigation and signals complexities in the probe.

“Michael is the most brilliant and most knowledgeable federal criminal lawyer in America — period,” said Walter Dellinger, a law professor at Duke University School of Law and acting solicitor general for the 1996-1997 term of the Supreme Court.

“I learned early on in my time as acting [solicitor general] that there was no point of ever thinking of second-guessing Michael on a matter of federal criminal law, because he just knew more than I did or could ever know,” Dellinger said. “He’s a straight shooter and is held in the greatest esteem by the FBI and lawyers in U.S. attorneys offices all over the country.”

Dreeben is 1 of the top legal & appellate minds at DOJ in modern times,” former Manhattan U.S. attorney Preet Bharara tweeted after learning of Mueller’s recruitment of Dreeben.

Back to Politico:

What happens to all the existing federal investigatory work?

Mueller’s team will pick up where other probes left off, including an FBI investigation that started last July exploring possible links between the Trump campaign and Moscow. They’re also taking on the Manafort probe, which The Associated Press reported started in 2014 — before Manafort became Trump’s campaign manager — when federal officials started looking into his work on behalf of pro-Kremlin officials in Ukraine.

Also under Mueller’s purview: The government’s investigation of Flynn, the former White House national security adviser who has come under scrutiny on multiple fronts, including for lobbying on behalf of a Turkish businessman with ties to Russia.

Reuters previously reported that a grand jury in northern Virginia has approved subpoenas to Flynn’s business associates, and veteran prosecutors say that work will now be handed over to the special counsel.

“Obviously, Flynn and Manafort and all the people connected in the campaign are going to be looked at,” said Peter Zeidenberg, a former federal prosecutor who worked at DOJ during the George W. Bush-era Valerie Plame Wilson investigation. “That seems self-evident.”

How wide will the Mueller probe go?

From the get-go, DOJ gave Mueller leverage to take the Russia probe wherever he thinks it needs to go. The original mandate cleared him to explore “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump,” and it also gave the green light on “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”

Former federal prosecutors say Mueller is likely to examine any financial ties between Russia, Trump and his business partners; the hacks into the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign manager John Podesta; and even Trump’s decision last month to fire FBI Director James Comey.

As they dig, Mueller and his team could find useful evidence in Trump’s personal Twitter feed, which Zeidenberg said is a “gold mine” of time-stamped thoughts and opinions from the president on matters under investigation. They’ll also be positioned to study posts from associates like Roger Stone, who openly touted his communications with Russian hackers and associates of WikiLeaks last summer just before the site posted stolen emails from Podesta.

Mueller’s team also will be on the lookout for evidence of obstruction of justice, such as the destruction of any records that could have provided links between the Republican president, his campaign and Russia.

Carr declined to comment on the breadth of the probe, but he said Mueller does not think he’s limited to any particular federal court district jurisdiction, meaning he can bring cases in any federal court in the country. He also does not need approval from DOJ’s national security or criminal divisions to take routine steps in the investigation.

How long will Mueller’s probe last?

Veteran prosecutors say Mueller won’t move as quickly as House and Senate committees that have already demanded materials from key Trump associates, including Manafort, Stone, Page and Flynn.

“You don’t go talk to potential targets first,” Zeidenberg said. “They’re at the end. I don’t think they’re anywhere close to that.”

Former prosecutors say the investigation could last two years or more before it produces a final report to the Justice Department. In the meantime, they say he can recommend grand jury indictments if his team uncovers illegal activity.

“I’d think he’d be reluctant to reach the reporting stage on this before he felt he’d really run to the ground most of the big stuff,” Buell said. “But he wouldn’t have to wait until he turns out the lights and vacates the office to do that.”

So when our Dear Leader says says he’d ‘100 percent’ agree to testify in Russia probe, he knows that this will not occur any time soon. Trump will be the very last witness to testify under oath after every other potential witness has already been “rolled up” by Robert Mueller. That’s a lot of “drip, drip” reporting to come.

Hopefully Trump will be called upon to testify under oath before the grand jury, as president Bill Clinton was.

19 Responses to Robert Mueller is assembling a ‘dream team’ of prosecutors

  1. they can recemend impeachment to house republicans. trumpkins will primary them and they know it. the house republicans will say thanks and toss report in nearest trash bin!

  2. Sen. John Kavanagh

    So if President Trump is not prosecuted after this crack team conducts a competent investigation, then it confirms that this was about nothing or are you planning to have your cake and eat it too?

    • John, you know as well as I do that if Mueller issues a reports that shows Trump and Company are squeaky clean, that won’t stop it. There will be screams, cries, rending of garments and, of course, accusations of “cover-ups”. They have already admitted as much, both here in this blog and nationally. The democrats are trying to run out the clock until 2018 in some hope they can take the House and maybe the Senate and then they can impeach Trump.

      • Sen. John Kavanagh

        For most Ds, you are probably correct. However, here we have AZBM, accuser -in-chief, giving the Russia investigation team a pre-start seal of approval. It would be difficult for AZBM to continue going after Trump on any issue Mueller looks into that fails to produce, at least, an indictment.
        Interesting.

    • Mike O'Connor

      You mean like what the Republicans have been doing to Hillary Clinton for the past 20 years?

      • For Sure Not Tom

        The Republicans did promise the start impeachment proceedings on Day One of the Clinton Presidency.

        Only the names have been changed. 🙂

        • We both know that was just trash talking, Tom. I personally don’t think Hillary and Bill will ever be held to account for what they have done in this life. They are so covered with teflon they will likely slide right out of their coffins…

          • Exactly what have Hillary & Bill done that they haven’t been held accountable for? Bill was nearly impeached for not telling the truth about consensual oral sex with someone who was not his wife (which incidentally is a highly personal matter). Hillary has been subjected to investigation after investigation including an eleven hour ordeal hosted by Trey Gowdy, none of which ultimately found any wrongdoing. The Republican’s major success in these endeavors has been creating the illusion of wrongdoing, which the suckers in their base love to eat up.

          • “Bill was nearly impeached…”

            Now, Wileybud, let’s keep the historical record honest, okay? Bill Clinton was impeached by the House; He just wasn’t removed from Office by the Senate. That is the way the Constitution requires it: The House investigates and impeaches, the Senate holds a trial and removes the President from Office.

            “…for not telling the truth about consensual oral sex with someone who was not his wife (which incidentally is a highly personal matter).”

            Funny thing! Most high crimes and misdemeanors are “highly personal matters”.

            “Hillary has been subjected to investigation after investigation…none of which ultimately found any wrongdoing.”

            That is why I made the distinction about the Special Prosecutor Investigation being initiated by Mueller. That is a whole different kettle of fish compared to Congressional Investigations which tend to be partisan kangaroo courts, the object of which isn’t so much investigating as it is grandstanding. The Clintons have never gone through a Special Prosecutor Investigation.

            “Exactly what have Hillary & Bill done that they haven’t been held accountable for?”

            That’s a good question, but ultimately a pointless one. It is all ancient history and I really don’t feel like dredging it up again. If you have been around long enough to have witnessed the Clinton’s in action, then you are already familiar with a lot of it but, like most democrats, choose not to see it. Like I said, though, I really don’t want to take the time to spell it out again, especially since time and failure have pushed the Clinton’s into the dustbin of history.

            Besides, I have something else to do…It’s naptime! Retirement is great! ;o)

      • “You mean like what the Republicans have been doing to Hillary Clinton for the past 20 years?”

        Oo-o-oh, Mike! That was almost a “touche'”!

        Where it missed is that there has never been a special prosecutor assigned to investigate all the chicanery Hillary was involved with. Had she ever been seriously looked at by someone like Mueller and that crack team he is supposedly assembling, and they had given her a clean slate, I think it would have taken the wind out of the sails of most Republicans. As it is, however, those accusations have never been answered, and she just kept piling the crap on, year after year after year, right up to the point where she was running for President.

        • Replying to the above thread (since the reply button is gone).

          OK, he was impeached by the House & not removed by the Senate, the lack of distinction is (as the young people say) my bad. Still, he was held accountable for a private personal matter that was nobody’s business outside his immediate family. Most high crimes & misdemeanors do not rise up from that.

          “It is all ancient history and I really don’t feel like dredging it up again.” Not ancient history if Republicans keep dredging it up as they have since the ’90s. Or were you napping then?

          Enjoy your nap and the sweet dreams of Kim Jong Trump (see the clip of today’s cabinet meeting: https://twitter.com/CNN/status/874324364795277313) dancing in your head.

          • “Still, he was held accountable for a private personal matter that was nobody’s business outside his immediate family.”

            Willeybud, you need to go back and refresh your memory about Clinton’s impeachment. He wasn’t impeached for a BJ in an anteroom of the Oval Office; he was impeached for lying under oath. He was impeached for perjury. Perjury is definitely NOT a private personal matter. That is also why he was disbarred.

            “Not ancient history if Republicans keep dredging it up as they have since the ’90s.”

            It really isn’t talked about all that much today except in passing or when Trump’s proposed impeachment is discussed. Politically speaking, it is almost dead as Watergate.

            “Enjoy your nap…”

            I did, very much, thank you. Everyone should be able to enjoy a good nap! ;o)

    • AZ BlueMeanie

      Sitting presidents cannot be prosecuted for crimes according to the Department of Justice. Mueller’s report will go to Congress. If he outlines “high crimes and misdemeanors” which includes abuse of power, it is up to Congress to impeach. That is where this team of prosecutors come in (think Ken Starr). If Republicans refuse to impeach out of party tribalism in the face of such charges, our constitutional system of government is pretty much over … the only remedy left is for voters to kick out of office every Republican. But as James Comey said, the Russians are still attacking our elections and they will be back, and they will once again help the party that wants to destroy our constitutional form of government in favor of authoritarianism.

      • “If Republicans refuse to impeach out of party tribalism in the face of such charges, our constitutional system of government is pretty much over … the only remedy left is for voters to kick out of office every Republican.”

        If there was evidence of serious crimes being committed and the Republicans refused to move on it, they would deserve to be kicked out of office. There comes a point where Party politics have to be set aside. My opinion is – and it purely opinion – that Republicans would reach that point long before any democrat would.

  3. Forget It Paul. It’s Trumptown.
    Joy-Ann Reid
    06.10.17 7:34 AM ET

    Whatever happens from here — whether Robert Mueller finds actual crimes or a criminal cover-up surrounding Russiagate — the man whose entire life has revolved around filling the gaping hole in his psyche with forced praise, vows of loyalty and boasts about “winning” will go down in history as a disastrous fluke, whose ascent to high office resulted from the machinations of a foreign power that manipulated American voters to avenge their hatred of a woman. History will remember him as the most disgraced and scandalized American president of the modern era, eclipsing Richard Nixon and making a damned near success of George W. Bush by comparison. Donald Trump is, by all accounts, an object of global ridicule; reviled around the world with the exception of the capitols of authoritarian regimes and of course, the Kremlin. His own sycophant party defends his misdeeds by declaring him to be almost childlike in his innocence and inability to understand the basics of governance, such that the former director of the FBI had an unprecedented duty to teach a 70-year-old real estate tycoon right from wrong.

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/forget-it-paul-its-trumptown

    • More from the article:

      Meanwhile blue states and cities, led by the world’s sixth largest economy, California, have begun to drive past the circus, toward international climate pacts, expanded healthcare access and perhaps eventually, trade pacts as well, along with advances in education, civic opportunity and green technology that will leave red America behind as the White House begins to lose its position as the center of gravity in America. Sure, Trump will remain our primary spectacle — the 20-car pileup we can’t stop staring at. But functionally, it’s easy to foresee the next three and a half years as a time of backing away from Washington, for those determined to protect those within their state and city lines and the progress this country fought so hard to make on everything from education to civil and immigrant rights to climate change.

      Many will continue to fight to unite the country in forward motion, but others will look in the rear view mirror and say, “let them choke on their oil and coal.” Such is the level of disgust felt by the horrified majority toward Trump’s America.
      Blue America, as defined by the 500 counties won by Hillary Clinton, accounts for 64 percent of this country’s economic activity; while the 2,600 counties Trump won account for just 36 percent. Blue America has a per capita income $10,000 higher, and lower rates of poverty and violent crime. And Blue America hands Trump Country $300 billion more in tax revenues each year than they pay in. Blue state governors and mayors have a duty to defend their citizens against a sputtering president and his destructive party.

    • More from the article…

      That’s not a reality to celebrate. The further disintegration of the United States into Balkanized red and blue parts is a fate that is as tragic as it feels inevitable. Indeed, it may be the reality that never really ended at Appomattox, despite our best pretense. America after Trump may be more like the European Union; a rambling alliance of interstate compacts, rather than the forced marriage of a country that emerged after the Civil War.

      Many on the right have long desired the America that’s coming. The “tenthers” and extreme federalists have yearned for a country of 50 little nation states, acting in concert only when they must. They went to the Supreme Court to defend the principle that states should be able to condemn their own citizens to a life without healthcare. Perhaps Donald Trump, who has exposed this country’s chasms and warts like no other president before, has finally given them their way.

    • I think this is a great op-ed by Ms. Reid, but with an especially grim vision of our future. Unfortunately, I am at a loss for a counterargument.

  4. For Sure Not Tom