Robert Mueller, the special counsel appointed to investigate potential criminal acts arising from Russian interference in the 2016 election, has added another top name to the roster of lawyers helping him conduct the probe.
Michael Dreeben, a longtime Justice Department attorney with deep knowledge of the federal criminal code, will assist Mueller’s team on a part-time basis, according to The National Law Journal.
Dreeben is a deputy in the Office of the Solicitor General, which handles the federal government’s legal strategy before the Supreme Court and the courts of appeals. He’s widely respected in legal circles and has argued more than 100 cases before the nation’s highest court.
Former Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, who ran the SG’s office during the Obama administration, had nothing but praise for his former colleague.
“Michael’s deep knowledge of the criminal law is unequaled. And he is a person of impeccable judgment and character,” Verrilli said.
Others likewise lauded Dreeben’s credentials and rectitude — including Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney who was fired by President Donald Trump despite assurances that he could stay on as the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan.
“Michael Dreeben is careful, meticulous, non-partisan, and fair-minded,” Bharara said on Twitter. “His loyalty is to the Constitution alone.”
Mueller’s selection of Dreeben suggests that the special counsel is looking very carefully into whether criminal laws were broken by the Trump campaign and the president’s associates. Mueller’s mandate authorizes him to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump” and “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” He may also prosecute federal crimes as he deems it “necessary and appropriate.”
On Thursday, fired FBI Director James Comey said that Mueller is now in possession of memorandums that Comey wrote after his one-on-one encounters with Trump and that it was up to the special counsel to determine if anything criminal occurred during those private meetings.
In his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Comey declined to pass judgment on whether Trump’s actions amounted to obstruction of justice, putting the ball squarely in Mueller’s court.
“I took it as a very disturbing thing, very concerning, but that’s a conclusion I’m sure the special counsel will work towards, to try and understand what the intention was there and whether that’s an offense,” Comey said.