May 22, 2017

Could the Administration Shut Down Robert Mueller’s Investigation Before it Begins?

A special counsel’s investigation could be weakened or shut down — here’s one way.

by Caitlin Martin

Photo Credit: Ted Eytan

**What is it?
**Reuters has reported that the Administration is considering using a little-known ethics rule to undermine the special counsel investigation. Mr. Mueller’s former law firm (he resigned the day he was appointed special counsel), WilmerHale, represents both Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort. The rule under consideration bans newly hired government lawyers from investigating their prior law firm’s clients for up to one year after they are hired. In January, the President signed an executive order extending that period to two years. According to Bruce Berman, WilmerHale’s general counsel (as told to the Washington Post), Mr. Mueller “had no involvement in the representation of Manafort, Kushner, or Trump, or any client in connection with any Russia-related inquiry.

What does it mean?
Should the White House invoke this rule, the Justice Department can waive the ethics rule. If they don’t, the investigation is stalled until a new special counsel can be appointed. Many people in Congress believe a waiver should be issued, although it remains unclear whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions has truly recused himself from the Russia investigation given his participation in the firing of F.B.I. Director James Comey.

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