Could WilmerHale’s Client List Cause Conflict for Robert Mueller’s Trump Investigation?
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Summary; Robert Mueller was appointed to special counsel of the Trump-Russia investigation, but his law firm’s client list could cause a significant issue.

Attorney Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel to the investigation into President Donald Trump’s alleged relationship with Russia. However, Politico reports that his law firm’s client list may cause a “wrinkle” with his new position.


“It’s a possible wrinkle in all off this,” former White House ethics lawyer Richard Painter told Politico. “Usually, there would be a one-year cooling off period.”

The wrinkle that Painter is referring to is WilmerHale’s client list. Mueller, an attorney at the BigLaw firm since 2014, is expected to lead the Trump-Russia investigation, but the law firm has relationships to key people in Trump’s life. Their client list includes former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Trump’s daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Painter said that the cooling off period could be waived by Justice Department ethics officials, and the ethics expert and law professor at the University of Minnesota said he would support that decision, adding that the real problem is not WilmerHale but interference from Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

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“I would support them using that authority,” Painter said. “It doesn’t really make sense for him to oversee one part of the investigation and recuse from others. … The real risk here is interference by the White House or by [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions’ appointees, not some issue involving WilmerHale.”

Painter likened Mueller to Archie Cox, the special prosecutor who oversaw the investigation into the Watergate Scandal involving President Richard Nixon. Harvard Law-educated Cox is generally revered, and Painter had similar praise for Mueller, who was picked by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to oversee the investigation.

Painter said that a conflict of interest could be avoided if Mueller would refrain from associating with WilmerHale attorneys as the investigation is taking place. WilmerHale co-managing director Robert Novick told Politico that Mueller had never worked on any cases there involving Manafort, Ivanka Trump, or Kushner.

According to Lawcrossing, Wilmerhale has 12 offices and over a thousand attorneys on staff. Mueller joined the firm in 2014 after serving as the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations between 2001 to 2013. He was appointed to that position by Republican President George W. Bush, and his term was extended by Democratic President Barack Obama.

On May 17, 2017, Mueller was appointed by the DOJ to oversee Russia’s possible interference in the 2016 Presidential Election. His appointment was met with approval by Republicans and Democrats, and it came one week after Trump fired FBI director James Comey, who was leading his own investigation into Trump’s relationship with Moscow.

After the announcement of hiring Mueller, Trump said that he was pleased that a quick resolution was coming.

“As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know – there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity,” Trump said to Reuters.

The investigation is looking into any ties that Russia aided Trump’s win, and investigators are reportedly looking into Manafort’s business dealings with Ukraine and other Russia-friendly businesses and individuals, as well as Kushner’s omission of meetings with Russian officials on clearance forms. According to Politico, Kushner said those omissions were mistakes.

Rosenstein said during his announcement of the special counsel that his intent was to give the American people confidence in whatever outcome was determined.

“My decision (to appoint a special counsel) is not the finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted. I have made no such determination,” Rosenstein said. “I determined that a special counsel is necessary in order for the American people to have full confidence in the outcome.”

Source: Politico

Robert Mueller photo courtesy of CNN

Do you think WilmerHale’s client list will have an effect on Mueller’s investigation? Let us know in the comments below.



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