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J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is leading the Russia investigation and, most recently, the investigation into whether President Trump obstructed justice. Suffice to say, he's taking the matter seriously, as evidenced by the team of lawyers he has quietly hired over the past few weeks to help him.

Between the lines: The people he's hired don't just look tough on paper — they're legal experts with unique, complementary strengths who have fought and investigated crime all around the world. Their expertise suggests how Mueller views this investigation and the direction in which he is hoping to take it.

The original team started as just three lawyers (plus Mueller) who all once worked at the law firm WilmerHale, where Mueller has worked since his 2013 departure from the FBI. Meet the full investigation dream team:

Aaron Zebley, Mueller's chief of staff when he was FBI director
  • Zebley was an elite FBI agent for 7 years in the Counterterrorism Division
  • He was instrumental in tracking down dangerous Al Qaeda members back in 1999
  • He then became a prosecutor and one of Mueller's go-to confidants
  • He was part of the I-49 team: a small group of FBI agents based in NYC who were actively searching for Osama Bin Laden before the 9/11 attacks
James Quarles III, former Watergate investigator
  • A litigator and a partner at WilmerHale, where he started in 1975. He runs the DC office of the firm
  • He served as an assistant special prosecutor for the Watergate investigation
  • During that investigation, Quarles focused on campaign finance research — something that will certainly be called upon throughout the Russia investigation, particularly after the FBI issued subpoenas for financial disclosures from Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort
  • He has argued cases in front of the Supreme Court
Jeannie Rhee, former deputy attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel
  • Rhee was senior adviser to former Attornery General Eric Holder for two years
  • She advised him and the WH on "constitutional, statutory and regulatory issues regarding criminal law, criminal procedure, executive privilege, civil rights and national security," according to WilmerHale.
  • She tried more than 30 cases when she served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the D.C. Attorney's Office
  • She rejoined WilmerHale as a partner in the Litigation/Controversy Department where she advised "clients who are the subject of government investigations" regarding "white-collar criminal investigations, False Claims Act allegations and securities enforcement matters."
  • In 2015, Rhee represented Hillary Clinton in a case about her private email server, according to Politico.
Andrew Weissmann, DOJ criminal fraud section chief
  • He was Mueller's one-time general counsel
  • Previously led the fraud unit at the DOJ
  • Weismann oversaw the Enron Task Force in the early 2000s, investigating the failed energy company
  • From 1991 to 2002, Weissmann handled cases against various crime families in NY as part of his work in the office of the U.S. Attorney for New York's Eastern District
  • He worked at a law firm where he focused on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, securities fraud, and other issues.
Michael Dreeben, DOJ's deputy solicitor general
  • Dreeben currently serves in the Justice Department, overseeing its criminal docket before the Supreme Court and handling its appellate cases
  • He has argued more than 100 cases in front of the Supreme Court
  • He was a deputy in the Office of the Solicitor General
  • He's been heralded as "1 of the top legal & appellate minds at DOJ in modern times," and has been called "the most brilliant and most knowledgeable federal criminal lawyer in America—period."
Lisa Page, an experienced DOJ trial attorney
  • There has been no official announcement from the special counsel about Page, but WIRED notes Mueller has reached out to her
  • Her investigatory expertise: organized crime cases, money laundering, and one particularly relevant case where she partnered with Hungary's FBI task force to investigate European organized crime.
  • Note: Her work in Hungary is what led to the ongoing money laundering case against Dmitry Firtash, a Ukrainian leader who was once business partners with Paul Manafort.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

Army to award Purple Hearts to troops injured in Iran missile attack

Damage at Ain al-Asad military airbase housing U.S. and other foreign troops in the western Iraqi province of Anbar in January 2020. Photo: Ayman Henna/AFP via Getty Images

The Army has approved 39 more Purple Hearts for U.S. soldiers wounded in an Iranian military ballistic missile attack on an Iraq base in January 2020, the Army Times first reported Wednesday.

Why it matters: Most of these soldiers sustained brain injuries, per the Army Times. Then-President Trump dismissed their injuries at the time as "headaches" and "not very serious," sparking backlash from some veterans groups.

Scoop: U.S. begins denying Afghan immigrants

Afghan refugees on a bus bound for temporary housing after arriving in Greece. Photo: Byron Smith/Getty Images

The Biden administration has begun issuing denials to Afghans seeking to emigrate to the United States through the humanitarian parole process, after a system that typically processes 2,000 applications annually has been flooded with more than 30,000.

Why it matters: Afghans face steeper odds and longer processes for escaping to the U.S., despite the earlier sweeping efforts by the Biden administration to assist its allies. Immigration lawyers and advocacy groups say the government has set untenable barriers to a safe haven in the U.S.

4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Dems invoke Robert Byrd to sell Manchin on Senate rules changes

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photos: Diana Walker, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A small group of Senate Democrats is privately invoking the legacy of late West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd in an effort to sway Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to support their plans to change the chamber's rules, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Manchin — who holds Byrd's Senate seat — has often referenced his predecessor's strong moral conviction and insistence on preserving the Senate as an institution, as justification for some of his tough positions.