Ex-FBI senior official explains why Mueller is 'much closer to the Oval Office than many of us realized'
Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller and President Donald Trump (Photos: Screen capture and AFP)

The former head of counterintelligence at the FBI explained the prosecutorial strategy of the special counsel's investigations into President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign and possible obstruction of justice.

Frank Figliuzzi, former assistant director of the FBI for Counterintelligence under then-FBI Director Robert Mueller, told MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes how he believes his former boss is approaching the case.

"Well, there's clearly a pathway that he's got planned out, and we're seeing it unfold right now," Figliuzzi noted. "And one of the things that I think we're all realizing is that the Mueller team is much farther along in this investigation and much closer to the Oval Office than many of us realized."

Figliuzzi explained a distinction between former Trump associates and current staffers.

"What we're learning, even today, is that people that I call the formers -- former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, former White House spokesman Sean Spicer, former interim National Security Advisor Keith Kellogg -- are all voluntarily working with or being interviewed by the Mueller team," Figliuzzi explained.

"This is a sign that he's penetrated into the White House," Figliuzzi noted. "These are the people who were savvy, in meetings, privy to knowledge. For example, Reince Priebus was White House chief of staff when Trump decided to fire FBI Director James Comey. What does he know about that?"

As damaging as former staffers may be, Figliuzzi explained that Trump may have more to fear from his current communications director.

"But let me tell you something, the appearance of Hope Hicks and the likelihood she's about to be interviewed when she returns from a foreign trip with the president should worry President Trump perhaps more than anyone else," Figliuzzi noted.

"Why? All of the people we just named are formers. They don't have this lovefest with the president, they in fact have issues with the president," Figliuzzi observed. "Hope Hicks has been with Trump and the Trump Organization since 2014. She's a 29-year-old young lady, she's about to undergo the most stressful part of her life, being interviewed by the special counsel team. She sits in the most sensitive meetings, the most critical media interviews the president has."

"She knows more than we think she knows," Figliuzzi concluded.

Hayes asked for the counterintelligence perspective on the case.

"If you look at this through a counterintelligence lens, you see the fingerprints of the Russian government here," Figliuzzi explained.

"I think [Paul Manafort] got a primer on how the Russians can influence a campaign when he represented the Ukrainian candidate, and he saw what Russia could do to manipulate a campaign and he liked it," Figliuzzi suggested.