Robert Mueller Ethics Waiver
Special Counsel Robert Mueller received an ethics waiver that should help remove a conflict of interest issue. However, this brings up more questions than answers.
Is Mueller protecting himself? Is the waiver for protecting his political views? Is the waiver related to Mueller’s past? Could it be related to Mueller’s work in recent years as a partner at the WilmerHale law firm (now renamed Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr). Well, these questions are investigated below.
Let’s first take a look at Mueller’s past and how he got appointed as the head of the special team looking into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
Who Appointed Robert Mueller Special Council?
Robert Mueller was appointed as the head of the Special Counsel investigation of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 United States presidential elections by the U.S. Department Justice. To be more specific, it was Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who appointed Mueller to the head position for this special task force. Mueller was officially given the position on May 17, 2017. (Source: “Special counsel appointed in Russia probe,” CNN, May 18, 2017.)
Why Was Robert Mueller Selected as Head of Special Counsel?
Robert Mueller has served some time in the military. This was back in the 1960s; he spent time fighting in Vietnam as an officer in the Marines. For his time fighting for the United States, he received the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, two Navy Commendation Medals, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. (Source: “Robert Mueller: Straight Shooter With a Moving Target,” Time, July 6, 2001.)
Mueller also worked for more than two decades as a lawyer. This helps him understand the legal matters when conducting his investigation. Mueller has worked on cases involving large organizations such as the National Football League (NFL) and Volkswagen.
In addition to Mueller’s law experience, he has worked in government under various presidents. A few examples of positions he held are United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts (when Ronald Reagan was in office), United States Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division (when George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton were in office), and United States Deputy Attorney General (when George W. Bush was in office). More recently, Mueller held the position of Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
What Is the Purpose of the Special Counsel?
The U.S. Department of Justice is the organization in charge of appointing a leader of the Special Counsel investigation. After Robert Mueller was appointed to that position, he selected the team members of the special project.
The purpose of this Special Counsel investigation is to determine if there were links of any sorts between Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. This means that Mueller and his team are looking to see if members of Trump’s team worked with anyone in Russia to get their way in the 2016 election.
Successes of the Special Counsel Team
Of course, the investigation requires looking at past actions and connecting dots together. There has been some success for Mueller and his team, with four individuals being charged.
George Papadopoulos was the first individual who was charged, and then he pleaded guilty. He worked as a member of Trump’s foreign policy team. Papadopoulos sent e-mails to campaign officials suggesting that they meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and members of the Russian government. This started because rumors began that there were secrets that the Russians held regarding presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. (Source: “George Papadopoulos told a senior Trump adviser he had an ‘interesting message’ from Russia — a day after learning of Clinton ‘dirt’,” Business Insider, November 13, 2017.)
Before the Special Counsel was formed, Papadopoulos was interviewed by the FBI. He said that his hands were clean and that there were no links to Russia. After Mueller and his team took on this special task, they found that Papadopoulos lied to the FBI. This resulted in Papadopoulos being charged with making false statements about his links to Russia.
This is just one example of Mueller and his team finding a link with Donald Trump’s team and Russia. This one discovery got the ball rolling and resulted in charging Paul Manafort (Trump’s campaign manager), Rick Gates (who worked under Paul Manafort), and Michael Flynn (former National Security Advisor).
If this Special Counsel team had not been formed, there is a possibility that none of these individuals mentioned above would have been charged with anything. For instance, Papadopoulos got interviewed by the FBI but never admitted to any wrongdoing.
Robert Mueller Receives Ethics Waiver: Why?
The Department of Justice granted Robert Mueller an ethics waiver. This is a waiver given to prevent conflict of interest issues. The intent of the waiver is to allow members of a government entity to not follow the rules that prohibit them from working or communicating with former work colleagues or clients who would benefit from having contact with someone with a high-ranking government position. The details of the waiver being granted were not released to the public, which results in a lot of speculation.
Here are some examples of that speculation from the public.
1. Robert Mueller Is a Democrat and Is Protecting the Party
Mueller did work under the Democratic Party (for the Obama administration) as FBI director. This could mean that he is asking for the waiver in order to protect his political beliefs and party. This, of course, is false; he was given the position of FBI director when George W. Bush was in office. In addition, he has spent more time working under a Republican president than a Democratic one. Obama was pleased with Mueller’s work and kept him on as the director of the FBI. Mueller is actually a supporter of the Republican Party. (Source: “FBI Nominee Lauded for Tenacity,” The Washington Post, July 30, 2001.)
2. Robert Mueller Is a Republican
Yes, this is true. Mueller is a registered Republican supporter. Now, since Trump and his team are Republicans, it could be looked at as if Mueller is trying to protect the image of the Republican Party. When looking his actions, this does not seem to be the case, because Mueller has gone after Republican supporters that were aligned with Trump. Therefore, the waiver has nothing to do with Mueller’s political views.
3. The Waiver Is Related to Mueller’s Time Spent in the Military
Mueller only spent a few years of his life in the military. This was before Mueller worked as a lawyer and held high-ranking positions in the government. Since this was more than 40 years ago, the waiver most likely has nothing to do with his military experience.
4. The Waiver Is Related to Mueller’s Law Experience
Yes, it is quite possible that the waiver has to do with Mueller’s experience of working as a lawyer and partner at the WilmerHale law firm. When he was at the firm, WilmerHale represented Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner. Kushner is the president’s son-in-law and a senior White House advisor, and he has been rumored to be involved in the Russia-Trump link. (Source: “Justice Department won’t disclose details on Mueller ethics waiver,” Politico, December 12, 2017.)
Another possibility is that Mueller is using the waiver for when the law firm represented a company that was part of an energy and arms project that Flynn had been pushing. (Source: “Mueller briefly did legal work for a company involved with Flynn,” CNN, September 14, 2017.)
Since Flynn was already charged in the Russia matter, there is a higher probability that the waiver has more to do with Kushner. As time passes, more information should be released by the Department of Justice or another government division.