Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team has used “shock-and-awe” tactics to intimidate witnesses and potential targets of the investigation into Russia’s attempts to disrupt last year’s election, the New York Times reports. Mueller has obtained a flurry of subpoenas to compel witnesses to testify before a grand jury, sometimes before his prosecutors have taken the customary first step of interviewing them. One witness was called before the grand jury less than a month after his name surfaced in news accounts. The special counsel even took the unusual step of obtaining a subpoena for one of Paul Manafort’s former lawyers, claiming an exception to the rule that shields attorney-client discussions from scrutiny.
Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, was in bed one July morning when federal agents bearing a search warrant picked the lock on his front door and raided his Virginia home. They took binders stuffed with documents and copied his computer files, looking for evidence that he set up secret offshore bank accounts. They even photographed the expensive suits in his closet. Mueller’s prosecutors told Manafort they planned to indict him. “They are setting a tone. It’s important early on to strike terror in the hearts of people in Washington, or else you will be rolled,” said Solomon Wisenberg, a prosecutor in the investigation that led to the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton in 1999. “You want people saying to themselves, ‘Man, I had better tell these guys the truth.’ ” Mueller, a former FBI director, is known to dislike meandering investigations that languish for years. He appears to be taking a broad view of his mandate: examining not just the Russian disruption campaign but also any financial entanglements with Russians going back several years. He is also investigating whether Trump tried to obstruct justice when he fired FBI director James Comey.