Mueller’s Watergate Prosecutor Is Liaising with the White House Lawyers, and Other Tidbits on Mueller’s Org Chart

Earlier this month, I explored what the organization exposed by the first court filings in the Mueller investigation showed. Politico has a version of the same analysis today that adds some more interesting details.

What ought to be the headline details is that the prosecutor on Mueller’s team who worked on Watergate, James Quarles, is the one liaising with White House lawyers.

Mueller’s liaison to the White House is James Quarles, a former Watergate prosecutor who has helped arrange an ongoing series of interviews with current and former Trump aides. Quarles was involved in the questioning of former press secretary Sean Spicer during a daylong interview last month, according to a person with knowledge of the interview, and he’s a primary point of contact for Trump’s personal attorney, John Dowd, as well as Ty Cobb, the lead White House lawyer handling the Russia investigation.

That seems like worthwhile symbolism.

The article describes who is leading the investigation into Mike Flynn.

And at the center of the investigation into Flynn is Jeannie Rhee, a former Obama-era deputy assistant attorney general who most recently worked with Mueller at the WilmerHale law firm — and whose name has so far appeared only on publicly available court documents relating to the guilty plea of former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos. Assisting Rhee on the Flynn case is Zainab Ahmad, an assistant U.S. attorney from New York with a specialty in prosecuting and collecting evidence in international criminal and terrorism cases — and whose name hasn’t yet appeared in Russia-related court filings at all.

I find it curious that Rhee has been involved in the Papadopoulos plea, given that there’s no sign that links up to Flynn. And I’m just as curious that Ahmad (who, as I noted, is a specialist in trying foreigners brought into the US) is on that team. Are there more Turks that will be brought in on the Flynn investigation? This passage doesn’t mention Brandon Van Grack (it later describes Van Grack’s role in Papadopoulos’ arraignment back in July, without explaining that that’s pretty clearly because he’s used to the court house in Alexandria, where Papadopoulos was arraigned), though I assume he’s still on that team.

Finally, the piece notes that Mueller added another prosecutor (it says there are currently 17 prosecutors, which may mean he has added two). Though unlike with all the other prosecutors on the team, Mueller’s not telling who this one is.

Mueller’s work isn’t just confined to his team of prosecutors, which special counsel spokesman Peter Carr said grew last week to 17 with the addition of an unnamed lawyer.

That may mean some other case just got deemed related to Mueller’s, but it’s one that he doesn’t want to reveal has been connected yet.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

8 replies
  1. maybe ryan says:

    >I find it curious that Rhee has been involved in the Papadopoulos plea, given that there’s no sign that links up to Flynn.

    There is a known Papadopoulos-Flynn link at 2 degrees of separation – Papadopoulos spoke at the Hadera Energy Conference on a panel with a businessman with a close relationship to Alptekin. This happened shortly after he joined the campaign, so it doesn’t provide long-term connection, but it has Papadopoulos swimming in the same waters.
    Much of Papadopoulos’s pre-campaign paper trail is a sort of standard Greek anti-Turk politics, so it would be casting against type for him to be at the heart of a Turkish connection.

  2. NorskieFlamethrower says:

    I don’t think that Meuller is gunna be done much before 2020. As I have speculated, the only real question about the future of all of this is: where does the military come down and when?

  3. Dc says:

    How might Papadopoulos connect to Flynn? A pressing question to me has been who on Earth placed Page and Papadopoulos in the national security team. Flynn was advising the campaign and already had Russian contacts. Makes sense that these Russophile flunkies were suggested by Flynn as part of a quid pro quo to get dirt. If Flynn could get Trump to publicly name 2 guys known to Russian intel on the “National Security Team” trump described in the WaPo interview, the Russians might have coughed up some dirt. Maybe this is the link to Flynn and Rhee’s portfolio?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Page and Papadopoulos might have made good gofers and cut-outs, except that they haven’t learned Jeff Sessions’s technique of falling on one’s sword at the correct moment in a federal investigation.  (Good for them, though; that fall-on-sword technique only pays off for the victim when someone as loyal as Dick Cheney is on the receiving end of the sacrifice.)

      As you say, their hiring could well be a message hidden in plain sight to the Russians, to tell them that the Trump campaign was ready, willing and able to work with them to harm Hillary and acquire the Oval Office.

      Putin must be laughing over his vodka and borsch at how easy it is to work the Orange Hairpiece.  No wonder all of Trump’s casinos failed: when you sit down at the poker table and can’t find the sucker, it’s you.

  4. Peterr says:

    Further down in the Politico piece from your “And at the center . . .” quote comes this (with emphasis added and internal link removed):

    While Mueller has assigned prosecutors to some of his biggest targets — some of whom, like Flynn, have not yet been publicly charged with a crime — they are still pulled in many directions. Rhee, the lead lawyer assigned to Manafort, was listed as the top attorney in the criminal charges and plea deal unsealed last month in the Papadopoulos case. Brandon Van Grack, a DOJ national security prosecutor who handled the Flynn investigation before Mueller’s appointment, represented the special counsel at the Papadopoulos arraignment hearing in July in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, the day after the Trump campaign aide’s arrest at Dulles International Airport.

    This would explain why Rhee was involved in the Papadopoulos case, but I’m struck by two other things. (1) Is Rhee truly the lead on both the Manafort and Flynn investigations? (2) Having the former Flynn investigator represent Team Mueller at Papadopoulos’ hearing is an interesting twist.

    Taken together, these imply a strong link between those Manafort and Flynn. Do they have any shared Russian contacts/acquaintances/professors? Other links?

    • maybe ryan says:

      Doing anything this risky, you have to have a high level of trust.  What gave anyone on Team Trump sufficient trust in George Papadopoulos?  I wish I’d seen his twitter account before it was vaporized.  The question to me is who was his real sponsor?

      One thing that nags at me in seeing him as anything beyond minor messenger is how to explain a trajectory that involves the Carson campaign.  It’s hard to see him as a ‘made man’ at that point, since it’s hard to see why anyone wanted to infiltrate the Carson camp – whether Russian or just plain native-born corrupt.  What did he do in the interim that made him seem reliable?

      Rugger, is that what you mean by the “true-believer” wing — folks who may not have been involved in a corrupt bargain.  They just really thought the US and Russia should be closer?  Or what do you mean?

      At any rate, that remains one possibility in my mind – that Manafort, Jared and/or others used people who were compartmentalized out of the unsavory parts of the Russian relationship.

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