WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other top administration officials are making a show Friday in their battle against illegal leaks, providing details of investigations into leaks of classified information.
The press briefing comes following one of the biggest leaks under this administration – the disclosure of transcripts of President Trump’s phone calls with two foreign leaders in January.
Since his appointment in May, Mueller has quietly has gathered a team of more than three dozen attorneys, investigators and other staff in a nondescript office in Washington. Officials familiar with the probe describe it as akin to a small US attorney’s office, with FBI agents and prosecutors assigned to separate groups looking into various aspects of the investigation.
These include groups of investigators and lawyers focused separately on Russian collusion and obstruction of justice, as well as the investigations focused on Manafort and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, according to a US official briefed on the investigation. Some of the investigators have been pulled from field offices across the country to join the Mueller team in Washington. Others left high-paying jobs at law firms. Many of the investigators have backgrounds in investigating fraud and financial crimes. There are 16 attorneys assigned to the probe, according to a spokesman for Mueller.
The appointment of Mueller as special counsel has drawn the ire of Trump and his loyalists, who claim that the team has conflicts of interest. Trump has tweeted about the “witch hunt” more than a dozen times since Mueller was appointed. Some members of the team previously contributed to Democratic campaigns.
Mueller reports to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, but there’s a measure of separation from Justice Department headquarters to keep the probe independent.
CNN has learned some of the investigators involved in the probe are buying liability insurance out of concern they could become targets of lawsuits from those who are being investigated, according to one of the people familiar with the probe. The Justice Department covers legal fees for employees sued in the course of their duties, but some of the lawyers want extra protection.
The Justice Department and special counsel’s office both declined to comment on the liability concerns.