Special Counsel Robert Mueller is tasked with overseeing the Russiagate case from investigation to litigation. It’s a job of daunting magnitude due to its diversity, pace and burgeoning proportions.
Initially limited to possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, the inquiry is now casting a much wider net.
This week portends to be a more trying one for Kushner, as he returns to Washington to be greeted by the news that he is now a focus of the FBI’s Russia investigation.
A week later Reuters reports that Mueller is expanding its scope to include a criminal investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Federal prosecutors in Virginia are investigating a deal between Flynn and Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin as part of a grand jury criminal probe, according to a subpoena seen by Reuters.
According to the Associated Press, Mueller has now assumed control of a separate criminal investigation into Paul Manafort. The former Trump campaign manager was forced to resign over questions about his business dealings in the Ukraine.
In an interview with the AP, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said Mueller’s assignment gives him the authority to also include Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the firing of former FBI Director James Comey and even himself into the expanding investigation.
While these actions involve major steps in the investigation phase, at the same time Robert Mueller is also developing the litigation phase. He is putting together a team of prodigious legal talent and experience: a real life Justice League. This story features six of those members: James Quarles III, Allan Lichtman, Andrew Weissmann, Aaron Zebley, Jeannie Rhee and Peter Carr.
James L Quarles III
In a career encompassing litigation, complex civil matters, and arguing before SCOTUS and Court of Appeals for the Federal, First, Second, Third, Fourth, Sixth and District of Columbia Circuits, James Quarles is best known for being an assistant special prosecutor on the Watergate Special Prosecution Force which he served from 1973-75.
“There is nothing comparable to the kind of pressure and obligation that this kind of job puts on your shoulders,” Richard Ben-Veniste, a lawyer who served as a special prosecutor during the Watergate scandal, told CNN describing Mr Quarles’ unique qualifications. “Having been there before, gives him the confidence to know how to do it and how to do it right.”
Allan J Lichtman
While Allan Lichtman is a Professor of History, not an attorney, he is an expert in impeachment which makes him a particularly interesting inclusion in Mueller’s crack team.
From an article authored by Allan Lichtman for CNBC, 19 May 2017:
Lies spoken softly by Mike Pence are no less insidious than lies bellowed and blustered by Donald Trump. Pence must be part of all investigations of the Trump administration. Under Article 4, Section 2 of the constitution, a vice president no less than a president is subject to impeachment.
The most senior government lawyer to join Mueller’s A Team is DoJ Fraud Chief Andrew Weissmann, a former colleague who worked for Mueller as the FBI’s general counsel from 2011-13. His area of expertise is the Foreign Corrupt Practice Act.
“Andrew Weissmann is an extraordinary attorney with an incomparable dedication to the pursuit of justice,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell. “As his deep experience demonstrates, many of the top officials throughout the Department of Justice have come to rely upon his wise counsel over the years”
As the head of the fraud section in the Obama administration, Weissmann’s specialties have included overseeing investigations into corporate wrongdoing and foreign corruption -- including probes into Volkswagen AG over diesel-cheating, global banks over market manipulation and Brazil’s state-owned oil company Petrobras over corrupt payments.
In addition to his legal expertise, Aaron Zembley’s CV also includes law enforcement experience. He spent seven years as an FBI Special Agent, then moved to the National Security and Terrorism Unit as an Assistant US Attorney before serving as Chief of Staff to Robert Mueller when he was Director of the FBI. For the past three years, Zebley has been a partner in the law firm WilmerHale.
He also worked in the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division for seven years.
Robert Novick, co-managing partner of WilmerHale, said that Zebley’s experience “will add to our internal investigations, crisis management, and cybersecurity capabilities.”
A partner at Mueller’s former law firm, Jeannie Rhee specialized in investigations practise. She too has has prior experience with the Justice Department.
Rhee, for the past six years, has advised Wilmer clients under government investigation. She previously worked for two years as a deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel advising the White House and the attorney general on executive power and national-security issues.
Peter Carr is another with an interesting and varied background. He was attached to Orrin Hatch’s staff as spokesman from 2002-07 which included a re-election campaign in 2006. From there he moved to Alexandria to serve as spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA). Carr’s mission on Mueller’s team will be to handle media inquiries related to the high-profile investigation.
Carr has worked at Justice Department headquarters since 2013 as the top spokesman for the Criminal Division. He also did a stint recently as the acting director of public affairs while Obama appointees were cycling out and Trump picks were cycling in.
Pluck from the bios these keywords:
Watergate, executive power, national security
fraud, counterterrorism, cybersecurity
and the composite is revealing in the context of Mueller’s Russiagate assignment. Like the opening scene from the Mission: Impossible television series, Robert Mueller is assembling a team comprising a range of expertise that will have every aspect of Russiagate covered — and we have a window into what those aspects are by ‘reading the signs’, ie the specialized skills each individual brings to the team.
This exemplification of the full team represents a dazzling line-up. If the sum of its parts is greater than its individual talents, expertise and experience, it will indeed be Robert Mueller’s Justice League, and a formidable force majeure.