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Robert Mueller left millions in salary, speeches to lead Russia probe

LiveMint logoLiveMint 10-08-2017 Chris Strohm

Washington: Robert Mueller and top members of his team investigating Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election left private practices where they made millions of dollars representing clients including Apple Inc., Facebook Inc. and the National Football League, according to new financial disclosure forms.

Mueller, a former FBI chief named in May as special counsel to lead the federal probe, made about $3.5 million at the WilmerHale law firm from March 2014 through May of this year, according to his financial disclosure form released by the Justice Department. The document also shows Mueller’s income from speeches, including $52,000 for appearing before Citigroup Inc.’s Mexican unit known as Banamex and $40,000 to address Citibank in Rye Brook, New York.

On the corporate side, Mueller represented clients including Facebook, Apple, the NFL and Volkswagen AG, and listed two US bank accounts valued at as much as $5.5 million. The form provides for listing values in broad ranges.

To build up the team examining whether President Donald Trump or any of his associates colluded with Russia to interfere in the election or committed any other crimes, Mueller hired several colleagues from WilmerHale, including James Quarles, who listed income of about $5.9 million; Jeannie Rhee, who cited income of about $2 million; and Aaron Zebley, who listed income of about $1.4 million.

The Justice Department hasn’t released information on the budget for Mueller’s investigation. Officials will decide how much to disclose after the special counsel submits a report on his spending that’s due by 30 September. Even high-ranking government prosecutors earn far less than those at prestigious law firms, although Mueller and his deputies eventually will be able to return to private practice.

Mueller’s investigation has expanded in recent weeks to include investigating the activities and financial dealings of Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.

As the investigation has become more aggressive, Trump has begun to question whether Mueller and his team have conflicts of interest because of political donations or connections they have had with Democrats and Hillary Clinton.

The disclosure forms, released after a request from the Washington Post, could bolster that criticism. Rhee said on the form she represented the Clinton Foundation, while Zebley said he represented Justin Cooper, who was a Clinton aide.

After Mueller’s appointment, however, the Justice Department reviewed the past work of the special counsel and his top prosecutors and determined they don’t have any apparent conflicts of interest. Bloomberg

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