A high-profile counterterrorism prosecutor who handled the guilty plea of retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn has departed Robert Mueller’s team, according to a spokesman for the special counsel’s office.
“Zainab Ahmad has concluded her detail with the Special Counsel’s Office but will continue to represent the office on specific pending matters that were assigned to her during her detail,” Peter Carr said in a statement.
The announcement of Ahmad’s departure comes on the heels of press reports that her colleague Andrew Weissman, the lead prosecutor on Paul Manafort’s case, would leave the office in coming days. The end of Ahmad’s detail is sure to be seen as another indication that the special counsel’s investigation is winding down.
Ahmad has had a role in the Russia investigation from almost the very beginning, well before Robert Mueller’s appointment. Another Justice Department official, Bruce Ohr, told Congress that he briefed Weissman and Ahmad on some of the memos composing the notorious Steele dossier — which alleged a number of links between then presidential candidate Donald Trump and Russia — in August 2016, the month after the Russia investigation was opened. Ohr testified that he cautioned Ahmad and Weissman at the time that the information was unverified and came from a potentially biased source. Ohr’s testimony has made both Ahmad and Weissman a target of House Republican inquiries in recent weeks.
Ahmad and Brandon Van Grack together signed Flynn’s guilty plea agreement in November 2017. They secured an admission from Flynn, the president’s first national security adviser, that he had committed a felony during the Trump administration’s early days in the White House, concealing from FBI agents back-channel talks he had with the Russian ambassador during the transition. As part of his guilty plea, Flynn also admitted to failing to register his work as a lobbyist for Turkey’s interests at the same time he was serving on the Trump campaign and lying to the Department of Justice in an after-the-fact registration; Flynn’s cooperation on that matter led to the indictment of his business associates last year.
Van Grack left the special counsel’s office earlier this year and was recently appointed the head the Justice Department’s foreign influence unit.
Now that both Ahmad and Van Grack have finished their sojourns in the special counsel’s office, it appears unlikely that Mueller’s team plans to bring any further charges against Flynn.
According to Carr, Ahmad will continue to handle Flynn’s case and other matters that were assigned to her during her time with the special counsel from her next role at the Justice Department, which has not yet been announced.
Before she arrived at the special counsel’s office, Ahmad prosecuted terrorism cases out of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn. In a 2015 interview discussing her time in Brooklyn, Ahmad was asked how federal prosecutors can win the trust of the Muslim community.
“I think the best way for prosecutors to win trust from all communities, including the Muslim community, is to do their job fairly, with an open mind, and with integrity, throughout every stage of the criminal justice process,” Ahmad answered. “As prosecutors we are taught over and over that our principal aim is to seek justice, not to achieve any particular subsidiary goal in any particular case.”
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