U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has a distinctly modern issue. The president, judging by his tweets, could attempt to pardon individuals in his circle even before anyone charge with a crime.
Mueller’s all-star group of prosecutors, with experience in foreign bribery and money laundering, has a response to that. He’s Michael Dreeben, a career government lawyer with more than 100 Supreme Court appearances under his belt.
Acting Mueller’s top legal counsel, Dreeben determining what, if any, limits exist and has been researching pardons that are beyond, according to a person familiar with the matter. Dreeben’s broader brief is to make sure that the special counsel’s prosecutorial moves are legally airtight. That could include anything from strategizing on novel interpretations of criminal law to making sure the search warrant on adviser Paul Manafort’s residence would stand up to an appeal.
“He’s seen every criminal case of any consequence in the last 20 years,” said Kathryn Ruemmler of Latham & Watkins LLP, who served as White House counsel under President Barack Obama. “If you wanted to do a no-knock warrant, he’d be a great guy to consult with to determine if you were exposing yourself. ”
Dreeben, 62, built that expertise over three decades as an appeals lawyer at the Justice Department. As a deputy solicitor general, he’s pored over prosecutors’ moves in more than a thousand federal criminal prosecutions and defended many of them from challenges all the way to the nation’s highest court.
Dreeben has begun working on legal issues as a counselor to Mueller but is also retaining some of his solicitor general work for the sake of continuity, according to Peter Carr, a spokesman for the special counsel’s office. Carr declined to elaborate on Dreeben’s work with Mueller or make Dreeben available for comment.
Pre-emptive pardons are a distinct possibility now that current and former Trump advisers are under Mueller’s scrutiny. Trump himself has tweeted that everyone agrees the U.S. president has “complete power to pardon.” A few of those sorts of moves that were executive have been well studied, such as Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton’s exoneration of fugitive financier Marc Rich. Nevertheless, the legal territory is mostly uncharted over pardons of a president & #x 2019; s campaign workers, relatives or even himself — and #x & prosecutors 2019; work would be affected.
What Dreeben brings to the question, say is a credibility that comes from parsing how prosecutions have played out throughout the nation. A balding and bearded New Jersey native with a nasal delivery, he has a knack for building the eloquence in court and careful arguments to put them out in paragraphs, said Miguel Estrada, a lawyer at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP.
His route wasn’t. Dreeben intended to pursue an advanced degree in history at the University of Chicago before changing his mind and enrolling at Duke University School of Law, according to a profile of him annually in Law360. He studied at Duke under Sara Beale, who’d worked in the Solicitor General’s office and helped plant the idea of representing the U.S. in arguments before the nation’s highest court.
Dreeben got his first shot in 1989. His opponent before the Supreme Court was another first-timer, a private practice lawyer named John Roberts.
Dreeben lost. However, the moment left an impression on Roberts, now #x 2019 & the courtroom;s Chief Justice. After Dreeben made his 100th argument before the court Roberts called him back to the lectern, recalling the decades-earlier meeting.
“You have always advocated positions on behalf of the United States in an exemplary fashion,” Roberts said, extending the courtroom’s appreciation for his “many years of advocacy and dedicated service. ”
Dreeben had urged the court that day to uphold the conviction of former Virginia governor Robert McDonnell on charges of public corruption. The Supreme Court finally overturned McDonnell’s conviction.
Dreeben’s testimonials of cases were assembled against McDonnell and others will be invaluable to Mueller. Appellate lawyers like Dreeben are stuck with decisions already made in the level, said Estrada, who worked in the Solicitor General’ office in the 1990s. But now, he added, Dreeben is in a position before cases are filed to troubleshoot problems.
“You have to argue what you’the cake is already baked, & #x 201D, and ve got; Estrada said. On Mueller’ group, by contrast, Dreeben “has the opportunity. ”
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