Special counsel and team gave up million-dollar jobs

WASHINGTON • Mr Robert Mueller left a US$3.4 million (S$4.6 million) partner job at the WilmerHale law firm - where he worked for clients such as Facebook, Apple, Sony and the National Football League - to serve as special counsel overseeing the probe into whether the Kremlin and the Trump campaign coordinated to impact the 2016 election.

Mr Mueller's public financial disclosure - along with those of seven members of his team - was made available in documents released to The Washington Post on Monday.

They offer a glimpse into who Mr Mueller and the lawyers he has hired have worked for, and where they have made their money.

The documents are likely to be closely scrutinised by allies of President Donald Trump, who has criticised Mr Mueller and his team as having conflicts of interest.

They show that several lawyers on the team, particularly those who came from the private sector, left behind substantial salaries to work on the Russia case.

Mr James Quarles, who left WilmerHale with Mr Mueller, drew more than US$5.8 million from his partnership there. Ms Jeannie Rhee, another partner, drew more than US$2 million, and Mr Aaron Zebley, who was Mr Mueller's chief of staff at the FBI and also worked with him at WilmerHale, drew more than US$1.4 million.

It is unclear how much each is getting paid to work on the law enforcement investigation. The special counsel's office has declined to make its budget proposal public, although it is likely a far cry from their private-sector work.

Mr Mueller also drew tens of thousands of dollars from paid speaking engagements in recent years, talking to groups such as Goldman Sachs, Citi and Ford Motor. For one speech, to the Mexican bank Bana- mex, he made US$52,000.

Those on the team who had come from private practice represented a wide range of clients. Mr Zebley represented Mr Justin Cooper, a former Clinton aide, and Ms Rhee represented the Clinton Foundation.

Mr Trump has been highly critical of Mr Mueller and his team, writing on Twitter that their investigation is the "single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history".

He has noted, particularly, several team members' donations to his former rival Hillary Clinton and other Democrats. Federal records show eight lawyers in the group have given to the Democrats, including Mrs Clinton's campaigns.

Many lawyers and ethics experts, however, say they can see no significant legal or ethical concerns with his team's donations.

The Justice Department's policies and federal law also prohibit discriminating based on political affiliation when hiring for non- political positions.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2017, with the headline 'Special counsel and team gave up million-dollar jobs'. Print Edition | Subscribe