Justice ethics experts clear Mueller to head Russia probe

Justice ethics experts clear Mueller to head Russia probe
© Greg Nash

Former FBI Director Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerAn unquestioning press promotes Rep. Adam Schiff's book based on Russia fiction Senate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG MORE has been cleared by Department of Justice ethics experts to lead the federal probe into Russian election meddling and possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, a DOJ spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Mueller was appointed as special counsel for the investigation last week, but concerns were raised over his ability to conduct a broad probe, because of an ethics rule barring newly hired government employees from participating in cases involving their former employers for a year.

Before the special counsel appointment, Mueller worked at the law firm WilmerHale, whose attorneys represent former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, first daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, both of whom work in the White House. Mueller did not represent any of them while he was at the firm.

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Mueller resigned from WilmerHale after he was tapped to lead the Russia investigation.

"While we cannot confirm or deny the applicability of the regulation to the matters to which Special Counsel Mueller was appointed, we can confirm that the Department ethics experts have reviewed the matters and determined that Mr. Mueller’s participation in the matters assigned to him is appropriate," DOJ spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said in a statement.

The Rules of Professional Responsibility do not bar Mueller from working on issues involving his prior firm's clients, so long as he does not use confidential information against the client that he learned during his work at the firm. 

Mueller's appointment came a week after Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey, who was, at the time, charged with overseeing his agency's probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

Trump told visiting Russian officials a day after he fired Comey that doing so relieved him of "great pressure" because of the investigation.