WASHINGTON, U.S. - Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia-Trump collusion probe might be heading towards a cyber crime investigation - as report revealed that he now has a new team member.
According to reports, Mueller has added a veteran cyber prosecutor to his team, filling a long gap in expertise and potentially signaling a focus on computer crimes.
A spokesperson for the special counsel’s office said in a statement that in early November, Ryan K. Dickey was assigned to Mueller’s team from the Justice Department’s computer crime and intellectual-property section.
Dickey is said to have joined 16 other highly respected lawyers who are facing anger from Republicans who are wary of some of their political contributions to Democrats.
Even though Mueller’s team has expanded since being set up last year, Dickey’s addition is said to be most notable because he is the first publicly known member of the team specializing solely in cyber issues.
The other members of Mueller’s team include those with expertise in mainly a variety of white-collar crimes, including fraud, money laundering and public corruption.
Mueller’s team also includes appellate specialists and an official who is the government’s foremost experts in criminal law.
In the past, Zainab Ahmad and Brandon Van Grack have handled some cybercrime issues, though they are recognized more for their work on terrorism and national security.
What forms the core of Mueller’s probe is a crucial cybersecurity component - the Russian hacking of Democrats’ emails to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system and swing the election in Trump’s favor.
The original FBI counterintelligence probe was launched because a Trump campaign adviser was said to have told an Australian diplomat that Russia had emails that could embarrass Democrats.
Then, in July 2016, private Democratic messages thought to have been hacked by Russia began appearing online.
Currently, Dickey’s appointment comes at a time when Mueller has gained possession of information from Facebook about politically themed advertisements bought through Russian accounts.
Reports quoted legal analysts as saying that one charge Mueller might pursue would be a conspiracy to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
This would be possible only if Mueller can demonstrate that members of the Trump campaign conspired in Russia’s hacking effort to influence the election.
In May last year, Mueller was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to investigate any possible links or coordination between the Russian government and the Trump campaign to influence the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.
So far, Mueller has charged or negotiated plea deals with four former Trump campaign or administration officials.
These officials include the former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign manager Paul Manafort.
However, Manafort’s charges have nothing to do with his work for Trump.
Meanwhile, Flynn and another former campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, are cooperating with Mueller’s team.
Recently, Mueller indicated to Trump’s legal team that his office is likely to seek an interview with the president,
Earlier this week, Mueller reportedly indicated to Trump’s legal team that his office is likely to seek an interview with the president.
While Trump has previously indicated his willingness to sit through such questioning, sources claim that the President’s attorneys have reportedly privately discussed setting limits on such a conversation.
On Wednesday, Trump against denied any wrongdoing and repeated his claim that the probe is a “witch hunt.”
He said on Twitter, “The single greatest Witch Hunt in American history continues. There was no collusion, everybody including the Dems knows there was no collusion, & yet on and on it goes. Russia & the world is laughing at the stupidity they are witnessing. Republicans should finally take control!”