Two prosecutors tasked with investigating allegations of possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election have left the Office of the Special Counsel.
Brian Richardson and Ryan Dickey, two “relatively junior,” members of Robert Mueller’s team, are no longer working directly for Mueller, according to the Justice Department. In a statement to CNN, special counsel spokesperson Peter Carr affirmed both prosecutors did not exit the probe due to misconduct or perceived political bias, but refused to provide further details surrounding their departures.
“Richardson had been among Mueller’s attorneys at Dutch lawyer Alex Van Der Zwaan’s sentencing in April. Richardson had joined Mueller’s office directly — whereas some lawyers moved over on detail from other parts of the Justice Department — after he finished a clerkship for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer,” CNN reports.
Van Der Zwaan pleaded guilty in February to making false statements to federal agents regarding conversations he shared with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and business partner Rick Gates. The Dutch lawyer served one month in prison at a low-security facility in Pennsylvania.
Columbia Law School spokeswoman Nancy Goldfarb said Richardson recently joined the Ivy League school as a research fellow.
Dickey, a prosecutor inside the Justice Department’s criminal division while working with the office of the special counsel, will continue his duties as an investigator pursuing intellectual property crimes.
“He has not officially removed himself in court from the legal teams prosecuting three ongoing Mueller-initiated cases,” writes CNN reporter Katelyn Polantz. “The cases involving Dickey are the indictment of 12 Russian military agents for allegedly hacking Democrats during the election, 16 Russians and companies accused of operating a social media troll farm to influence American voters…”
Last summer, now-fired FBI special agent Peter Strzok was removed from the Mueller probe following the discovery anti-Trump text messages he had exchanged with bureau lawyer Lisa Page. In one eyebrow-raising text, Strzok discussed the possibility of an “insurance policy,” believed to have been about then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. “I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in [Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s] office—that there’s no way [Trump] gets elected—but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40…,” Strzok wrote.
FBI Deputy Director David L. Bowdich ordered the disgraced agent to be terminated earlier this month, after the department overseeing personal disciplinary recommended he be both demoted and suspended for 60 days.
Following the departures, the office of the special counsel is said to employ a total of 15 attorneys.
President Donald Trump, who has long described the Mueller investigation as a “witch hunt,” warned last night during a campaign rally in Evansville, Indiana, that he may involve himself in the ongoing probe. “Our Justice Department and our FBI have to start doing their job, doing it right, and doing it now because people are angry,” the president said. “What’s happening is a disgrace and at some point. I wanted to stay out, but at some point, if it doesn’t straighten out properly, I will get involved and I’ll get in there if I have to.”
In the meantime, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani told the Daily Beast in an interview released Thursday that he is preparing a “counter-report,” questioning the Russia probe’s legitimacy. “There is no [secret] grand jury material here… It’ll be our report, put out on… personal stationery, and it would be in response to their report… We may have to use it in court, or [send to] Congress,” Giuliani said of the voluminous report.
While no release date has been set, Giuliani said the report will be in “pretty good shape by next week.”