Justice League: Meet The Veteran Prosecutors Powering The Russia Probe

Christine Frapech
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The powerhouse team of lawyers assigned to the multi-pronged federal investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election has expanded to include 15 members.

Plucked from the Justice Department and white-collar law firms by special counsel Robert Mueller, the attorneys boast years of experience prosecuting cases involving national security, fraud, money laundering, cybercrime and espionage. There are experts in witness-flipping, Russia, organized crime and public corruption. Several have worked with Mueller in the past.

Though the team is holed up away from the public eye in their office in the Patrick Henry Building on Washington, D.C.’s D Street, their previous work experience offers a window into where the investigation into Russia’s attempts to influence the election outcome—and whether any members of the Trump campaign assisted that effort or committed any financial crimes—could be headed.

Peter Carr, a spokesman for the special counsel, confirmed that the following 13 lawyers have been publicly identified out of the 15-member team, and told TPM that more were “in the pipeline.”

Here’s what we know about the legal team Mueller has assembled thus far:

ANDREW WEISSMANN

Most recently the chief of the Justice Department’s fraud section, Weissmann joins Mueller’s team with decades of experience prosecuting cases involving organized crime, corporate misconduct and criminal fraud.

Some of the blockbuster cases he has taken the lead on include the prosecution of executives from now-defunct energy company Enron for their elaborate schemes to conceal their firm’s financial woes, and his conviction of members of the Gambino, Colombo and Genovese crime families as a federal prosecutor in Brooklyn.

In the 1990s, Weissmann worked on a case involving Felix Sater, a Russian-born businessman with organized crime connections who would go on to become a business associate of Trump’s. Weissmann signed a deal Sater struck to become a government informant after he pleaded guilty in a $40 million fraud scheme, according to the Financial Times.

Weissmann is also renowned for his expert in flipping witnesses, as Reuters has reported—a skill that could come in handy as the special counsel team tries to determine if anyone associated with the Trump campaign colluded with Russian operatives.

MICHAEL DREEBEN

The Justice Department’s deputy solicitor general is working part-time on the special counsel investigation, where he brings decades of experience in criminal law.

Dreeben has argued over 100 cases before the Supreme Court, and represented the federal government on cases including the public corruption probe into former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R).

His addition to Mueller’s team was “widely seen as a sign that Mueller was investigating possible criminal violations by President Donald Trump or others,” according to the National Law Journal.

JAMES QUARLES III

Quarles kicked off his career working as an assistant special prosecutor on the special prosecution force investigating the Watergate scandal. After that investigation ended with the conviction of several of President Richard Nixon’s top aides for various abuses of power, Quarles joined the white-shoe D.C. law firm WilmerHale in the mid-1970s.

JEANNIE RHEE

Another WilmerHale veteran, like Mueller himself, Rhee has extensive experience working on criminal investigations. As a young lawyer, she served as an assistant US attorney for the District of Columbia, where she prosecuted Washington Teachers Union officials who embezzled some $5 million.

Rhee later served as deputy assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s office of legal counsel and, in private practice, focused on advising clients who were the subjects of federal investigations. Some of Rhee’s most high-profile cases involve the Clintons: She was on the legal team representing the Clinton Foundation in a racketeering lawsuit brought by Freedom Watch, a litigious conservative advocacy group, and represented Hillary Clinton in a lawsuit that sought to obtain access to her private emails.

Rhee, like several other special counsel attorneys including Quarles and Weissman, has been criticized for donating to political campaigns for Democratic politicians including Clinton and former president Barack Obama.

AARON ZEBLEY

A former FBI special agent on counterterrorism cases and assistant U.S. attorney in the National Security and Terrorism Unit, Zebley has had a long working relationship with Mueller. He served as Mueller’s chief of staff during his tenure at the FBI and then worked alongside him as a partner at WilmerHale.

Prior to joining WilmerHale, Zebley worked as senior counsel in the DOJ’s national security division. His expertise is in national security, terrorism and violent crime cases.

BRANDON VAN GRACK

Van Grack is a veteran prosecutor in the counterespionage section of the DOJ’s national security division. In two recent cases, Van Grack helped prosecute a former government contractor who stole classified national defense documents and a computer hacker who provided the Islamic State with the names and contact information of over 1,000 government and military workers.

Van Grack had led a grand jury inquiry in the Eastern District of Virginia into ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn’s lobbying on behalf of foreign governments, which reportedly has since been picked up by Mueller.

RUSH ATKINSON

A trial attorney in the fraud section of the DOJ’s criminal division, Atkinson has worked on complex cases involving corporate malfeasance. Earlier this year, he helped indict a former top executive at Bankrate Inc., a financial services company, for manipulating the company’s statements and artificially inflating its earnings.

ANDREW GOLDSTEIN

Goldstein joins the special counsel team from his post as head of the public corruption unit in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York. Under former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, a frequent critic of the administration who was fired by Trump earlier this year, the office burnished its reputation for aggressively prosecuting cases involving white-collar crime and public corruption.

Goldstein was a prosecutor on the team that convicted longtime State Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver and other members of the state government of public corruption, according to the New York Times. He has experience working on money laundering and asset forfeiture cases.

ZAINAB AHMAD

An assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of New York, Ahmad served as the deputy chief of the national security and cybercrime section. As the New Yorker documented in a recent profile, Ahmad successfully prosecuted 13 international terrorism suspects for the U.S. government without losing a single case.

Some of her biggest cases include the prosecution of a Pakistani al-Qaeda operative planning a terrorist attack on a U.K. shopping center and of a Nigerian citizen convicted of providing material support to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

ELIZABETH PRELOGAR

An assistant to the solicitor general’s office, Prelogar previously clerked for Supreme Court justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan and worked in private practice at Hogan Lovells.

She appears to be fluent in Russian from her undergraduate and graduate studies, and served as a Fulbright Scholar in Russia, as the National Law Journal reported.

LISA PAGE

Page developed experience in money laundering and organized crime cases during her tenure as a trial attorney in the DOJ’s organized crime and gang section. She prosecuted a member of the Lucchese organized crime family and Bulgarian nationals who conducted a money laundering scheme using fake eBay ads.

ADAM JED

Jed has worked for the DOJ since 2010, most recently in the civil division, according to the National Law Journal. He defended the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive insurance requirement on behalf of the federal government in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Sebelius, and received an exceptional service award from the DOJ for helping implement the Supreme Court decision that effectively legalized gay marriage.

AARON ZELINSKY

An experienced line prosecutor who has worked on organized crime cases, Zelinsky has spent the past three years working as as assistant U.S. Attorney in Maryland under Rod Rosenstein, who is now the deputy attorney general overseeing the special counsel probe. Zelinsky has taught constitutional and national security law at Peking University and the University of Maryland, respectively.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.
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