Robert Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in last year’s presidential election, has boosted his team of lawyers to 13 and plans to hire several more, his spokesman, Peter Carr, said on Friday.
Since his appointment on May 17, Mueller, a former FBI director, has recruited a high-powered team of lawyers, investigators and prosecutors with deep expertise in areas ranging from financial fraud to constitutional law.
Three came from Mueller’s former law firm, WilmerHale: Aaron Zebley, a former FBI agent who later served as Mueller’s chief of staff at the bureau; James Quarles, a former Watergate assistant special prosecutor with more than four decades of experience at WilmerHale; and Jeannie Rhee, a former federal prosecutor and Department of Justice official.
Several of the lawyers on Mueller’s team are current Department of Justice officials: Michael Dreeben, is the deputy solicitor general who has argued more than 100 cases before the Supreme Court; Andrew Weissmann, a former director of the Enron Task Force, heads the Criminal Division’s fraud section; and Lisa Page, a former trial lawyer who worked in the organized crime and gang section.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who acts as attorney general on the Russian investigation because Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself, appointed Mueller last month with a mandate to probe “Russian government efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election and related matters.”
Those matters include whether President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia and whether any crimes were committed. Trump, who on Friday confirmed he’s being investigated by the Special Counsel, has dismissed the Russia investigation as a “witch hunt.”
Mueller’s spokesman said the team, which is still being assembled, has begun its investigation and interviews.
“This is an active investigation,” said Carr. “The Special Counsel’s Office will be able to move forward on investigative steps already taken.”
The office is being funded through “a permanent indefinite appropriation, not the Department of Justice’s appropriation,” according to Carr. “We are required to submit a budget within 60 days of the appointment for the current fiscal year and submit it for the Attorney General’s review and approval.”