President Donald Trump has repeatedly hurled insults at the FBI agents working on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 campaign. Rudy Giuliani, a former U.S. attorney who’s now Trump’s lawyer, has attacked them as “storm troopers.”
The vitriol is unsurprising. The agents are powering an investigation that has shadowed Trump’s entire presidency and they are mostly unknown to the public, making them easy targets. They are a mix of bureau veterans and relative newcomers handpicked by Mueller and his prosecutors to handle the highest-profile and most sensitive federal investigation in a generation.
To assemble this portrait of Mueller’s FBI team, POLITICO scoured court records, news accounts and press releases and conducted more than two dozen interviews with defense lawyers and witnesses as well as with current and former FBI agents.
The agents who form the core of Mueller’s investigative team — who work mostly from a southwest Washington office complex whose only distinguishing feature may be the network TV camera regularly posted near the entrance — have a wide range of skills, with some specializing in financial frauds, others in counterintelligence or corruption, and still others adept at investigating computer hacking and other forms of cyber crime.
Mueller’s FBI crew appears to be a combination of agents who were already working aspects of the investigation before the former FBI director took over a year ago, either because of their expertise or their location, and a set of volunteers who jumped aboard or were invited to join as the special counsel staffed up.
“The agents come two ways,” said Jeff Cramer, a former federal prosecutor in Chicago, now with Berkeley Research Group. “One is geographic. But, as you’re constructing your perfect investigative team, if you have your druthers and there’s agents you’ve worked with in the past, wherever they are in the country, on a case like this you do reach out and say, ‘Would you like to be involved in this?’”
Those who said yes include Omer Meisel, a former Securities and Exchange Commission investigator who cut his teeth as a young FBI recruit probing the collapse of Enron with Mueller deputy Andrew Weissmann nearly two decades ago.
“He’s one of Andrew’s favorite agents,” said a lawyer who’s worked with both men. Another attorney described Meisel as “one of the smartest, most street savvy, hardworking FBI agents I ever encountered.”