Robert Mueller Assembles An All-Star Legal Team
Working for a special counsel who’s investigating scandal in a presidential administration is one of the most interesting — and potentially career-enhancing — assignments for a young lawyer. Just ask D.C. Circuit Judge (and potential Supreme Court nominee) Brett Kavanaugh, who worked for Kenneth Starr on the Whitewater investigation during the Clinton presidency. Or leading legal journalist Jeffrey Toobin, who worked for Lawrence Walsh on the Iran-Contra investigation during the Reagan presidency (and turned that experience into his first book, Opening Arguments: A Young Lawyer’s First Case (affiliate link)).
Now former FBI director Robert Mueller, the special counsel tasked with investigating possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, is putting together his team — and what a team it is. Writing in Wired, journalist Garrett Graff — who literally wrote the book on Bob Mueller (affiliate link) — profiles this legal “dream team.”
Much of Graff’s piece focuses on Aaron Zebley, who chased terrorists around the globe as an FBI agent. But on top of his amazing war stories, Zebley has an impressive pedigree: William & Mary, UVA Law, assistant U.S. attorney (E.D. Va.), chief of staff to then-FBI director Mueller, and partner at WilmerHale.
And Zebley’s not the only high-flying legal eagle working with Mueller, as Graff notes:
Mueller is recruiting perhaps the most high-powered and experienced team of investigators ever assembled by the Justice Department. His team began with three lawyers who also quickly left WilmerHale, the law firm where Mueller has also worked since he left the FBI in 2013—Zebley, James Quarles III, and Jeannie Rhee.
The rapid recruitment of Quarles attracted immediate attention: A famed litigator who was an assistant special prosecutor for the Watergate investigation, Quarles specialized in campaign finance research for the Watergate task force, which surely will be an area of focus for Mueller’s investigation…. In more recent years, Quarles has risen through the [WilmerHale] ranks to run its D..C office, and is an experienced manager.
As for Jeannie Rhee, she’s a double Yalie (college and law school) with many years of experience at the Justice Department, where she worked as both an assistant U.S. attorney (D.D.C.) and in Main Justice’s vaunted Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). Like Mueller and Quarles, she too left the WilmerHale partnership to join the Russia probe.
That’s more legal talent than you can shake a gavel at. And wait, there’s more!
More recently, Mueller has recruited Andrew Weissmann, his one-time general counsel at the FBI and a long-time adviser who once led the Justice Department’s fraud unit. In the early 2000s, Weissmann also oversaw the Enron Task Force, the storied Justice Department unit that investigated the complex machinations of the failed energy giant.
Weissmann — a Princeton and Columbia Law grad, and a partner at Jenner & Block after his government service — is a controversial figure because of his prosecutorial zeal. Former federal prosecutor Sidney Powell, who went up against him in the Enron case (when she was a defense lawyer), told Law360, “I wouldn’t trust Mr. Weissmann if he told me what day of the week this was.” But other lawyers praised Weissmann to Law360 for his toughness and willingness to pursue wrongdoing, regardless of the consequences.
Mueller seems to prioritize government service, as reflected in this next notable hire:
[W]hile the Special Counsel’s office has yet to make any formal announcements about Mueller’s team, it appears he has recruited an experienced Justice Department trial attorney, Lisa Page, a little-known figure outside the halls of Main Justice but one whose résumé boasts intriguing hints about where Mueller’s Russia investigation might lead. Page has deep experience with money laundering and organized crime cases, including investigations where she’s partnered with an FBI task force in Budapest, Hungary, that focuses on eastern European organized crime.
And last, but definitely not least, here’s a boldface name from the Supreme Court bar:
Mueller added Michael Dreeben, who has worked for years in the Justice Department’s solicitor general’s office, which argues the government’s cases before the Supreme Court. “Dreeben is 1 of the top legal & appellate minds at DOJ in modern times,” tweeted Preet Bharara, the former top Manhattan federal prosecutor. Walter Dellinger, an accomplished law professor at Duke and former acting solicitor general, went one step further, telling The Washington Post, “Michael is the most brilliant and most knowledgeable federal criminal lawyer in America—period.”
Such sentiments are widely held throughout the appellate bar. It would be hard to find a more highly esteemed appellate advocate than Michael Dreeben. Like Bob Mueller, he has served across multiple presidential administrations, enjoying respect from both sides of the aisle.
What will special counsel Robert Mueller and his colleagues discover in their investigation? That remains to be seen. But make no mistake: with this kind of
bigly big-league legal talent, if there’s wrongdoing to be found, they will find it.
Robert Mueller Chooses His Investigatory Dream Team [Wired]
The Threat Matrix: The FBI at War in the Age of Global Terror [Amazon (affiliate link)]
DOJ’s Weissmann Joining Mueller’s Russia Investigation Team, Sources Say [Bloomberg Politics]
Earlier: Biglaw Partner Named Special Counsel In Russia Investigation
David Lat is the founder and managing editor of Above the Law and the author of Supreme Ambitions: A Novel. He previously worked as a federal prosecutor in Newark, New Jersey; a litigation associate at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz; and a law clerk to Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. You can connect with David on Twitter (@DavidLat), LinkedIn, and Facebook, and you can reach him by email at email@example.com.
Published at Wed, 14 Jun 2017 23:24:58 +0000
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