CNN’s Evan Perez, Pamela Brown and Shimon Prokupecz, report that special counsel Robert Mueller’s ever-growing team of investigators, 16 lawyers and counting, are worried they’re going to be sued by those they are investigating:
CNN has learned some of the investigators involved in the probe are buying liability insurance out of concern they could become targets of lawsuits from those who are being investigated, according to one of the people familiar with the probe. The Justice Department covers legal fees for employees sued in the course of their duties, but some of the lawyers want extra protection.
The Justice Department and special counsel’s office both declined to comment on the liability concerns.
Take the report with a grain of salt because it is based on unnamed sources “people familiar with the probe.”
Why would 16 hot shot lawyers, not to mention the other 20 investigators and staff, fear being sued so much they felt they needed to buy the extra protection of insurance when the Justice Department will cover their legal fees for being sued for performing their duties? Could it be that they are going so far afield in the investigation that they fear they may be found to be acting outside of their duties? Who knows?
According to the CNN reporters, Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election has expanded into examining possible financial crimes unrelated to Russian election interference:
The FBI is reviewing financial records related to the Trump Organization, as well as Trump, his family members, including Donald Trump Jr., and campaign associates. They’ve combed through the list of shell companies and buyers of Trump-branded real estate properties and scrutinized the roster of tenants at Trump Tower reaching back more than a half-dozen years. They’ve looked at the backgrounds of Russian business associates connected to Trump surrounding the 2013 Miss Universe pageant.
Some of those now under scrutiny by Mueller see a bait and switch. Instead of collusion, they believe the Mueller probe will instead end up being about past financial troubles. Sounds like what happened to Sccoter Libby in the investigation into leaking the classified identity of a covert agent of the CIA, Valerie Plame Wilson. Libby had nothing to do with the leak, but was convicted on four counts of perjury, obstruction of justice, and making false statements to federal investigators.
The CNN article also reveals that even some at the FBI are frustrated over the Mueller investigation:
After a highly contentious year investigating Hillary Clinton’s private email servers and being accused of swinging the election against her, the FBI finds itself again where officials tried not to be: amid a politically treacherous investigation that has hobbled a new President.
Worse yet, some FBI officials fear the question of whether there was any criminal coordination or collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia may never be answered.
One challenge is that tantalizing pieces of intelligence are missing key links because they did not develop long enough for investigators to determine their significance. These include intercepts monitored by US intelligence that showed suggestions of illegal coordination but nothing overt.
Those missing links mean that the FBI and Mueller’s prosecution team may not have enough evidence to bring charges related to possible illegal coordination with a foreign intelligence service. Instead, prosecutors could pursue financial crime charges unrelated to the election.
Team Mueller is playing hard ball. Even investigative leads that have nothing to do with Russia but involve Trump associates are being referred to the special counsel to encourage subjects of the investigation to cooperate.
In response to the CNN story, the President’s attorney, Jay Sekulow, said, “President’s outside counsel has not received any requests for documentation or information about this. Any inquiry from the special counsel that goes beyond the mandate specified in the appointment we would object to.”