When special counsel Robert Mueller took his new job in May, he gave up a law firm partnership where he made almost $3.5 million since the beginning of 2016, according to a financial disclosure released by the Justice Department on Tuesday.
Mueller’s client list from his former firm, WilmerHale, reads like a who’s who of America’s most prominent businesses, including Facebook, Apple, Intel, Sony Pictures, Booz Allen Hamilton and the National Football League.
Mueller was also on the paid-speaking circuit in recent years, addressing businesses like Goldman Sachs, charities and and lecture series, as well as lobbying groups like the Nuclear Energy Institute and the Insurance Information Institute.
Mueller’s speaking engagements brought him about $162,000 since the beginning of 2016, the report says. His most lucrative speech during that period was to the Mexican bank Banamex for $52,000.
Mueller, a former FBI director, was named in May as a special counsel to investigate potential collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian officials or agents.
Among Mueller’s tasks may be to examine whether Trump administration officials intentionally concealed foreign financial ties that should have been reported on the same financial disclosure form Mueller completed.
Mueller’s disclosure lists assets belonging to him and his spouse valued at a total of between $4.2 million and $15.2 million. The figures aren’t precise because the form reports ranges of values, not specific amounts. In addition, some assets like residences and federal government retirement funds do not need to be reported.
Mueller’s legal work for Facebook is notable because that company could potentially hold valuable data for his investigation.
Tech industry experts say Facebook and other companies, including Twitter and Google, could help Mueller establish whether there was any coordination or collusion between the Trump campaign officials who had access to critical voter data files — pinpointing key battleground counties and states, and key demographic groups inside of them — and the alleged Russian government social media accounts that were pumping out pro-Trump and anti-Hillary Clinton messages at peak moments of the campaign.
Mueller also may have interest in the direct-messaging features available on Facebook and Twitter, as well as the Gmail accounts the campaigns used via Google. It’s also not uncommon for political operatives to use little-known Twitter handles to communicate information with one another. While congressional Democrats leading their probes into the Russia scandal have been pressing Facebook for answers, it’s unclear whether Mueller has. His office hasn’t commented about its interest in the tech company, and representatives from Facebook have also declined comment.
Mueller reported modest personal or family investments in various tech firms, including Facebook and Alphabet, parent of Google.
Lawyers entering government are not required to publicly disclose the identities of clients they did confidential legal work for, but they are required to disclose whether they did such work. Mueller did not report any confidential clients in the past two years.
Much of Mueller’s work is publicly known, such as his attempting to arrange settlements in hundreds of lawsuits brought against Volkswagen and his high-profile assignment investigating the NFL’s response to Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice’s knocking his then-fiancee unconscious.
Financial disclosures were also released Tuesday for some lawyers Mueller has hired.
Aaron Zebley, Mueller’s former FBI chief of staff, left a $1.4 million-a-year job as a partner at WilmerHale to join the special counsel investigation. According to his disclosure, Zebley represented a range of corporate clients that included the NFL, Sony, Walt Disney Co., Apple, Citibank, Facebook, Booz Allen Hamilton, Levi Strauss, Pepsi and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Massachusetts. He also reported $10,000 in income in 2016 for writing Mueller’s speeches.
Zebley listed three confidential clients who can’t be named because they are part of an investigation or grand jury proceedings that aren’t public.
Another former WilmerHale partner who joined Mueller’s office, Jeannie Rhee, has been the focus of critics who contend that her legal work for the Clinton Foundation creates a conflict of interest. The foundation is listed as a client on her disclosure form.
Her form and the others that were just made public contain a notation from top Justice Department ethics official Cynthia Shaw: “No apparent conflicts of interest.”
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