Chances are you're not familiar with the name Andrew Weissmann. That's likely to change.

He's the top lieutenant in Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller's investigation of potential collusion between Russia and the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. He's also the man most directly involved in the indictment of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.

Weismann, 59, is known as the most aggressive and controversial member of Mueller's team.

Remember the pre-dawn raid by a dozen FBI agents on Manafort's home back in August? That's something rarely done in white-collar crime cases. It was Weissmann's way of sending an unambiguous message to Manafort: We are going to nail you.

Weissmann, who has two Ivy League degrees, is admired for his intelligence and skill as a prosecutor, particularly his talent in getting witnesses to flip and provide critical information. He served as chief of the criminal fraud section of the U.S. Department of Justice before taking leave to join the Russia probe.

A recent New York Times story, which dubbed him a "legal pit bull," said he's "an expert in converting defendants into collaborators -- with either tactical brilliance or overzealousness, depending on one's perspective."

The story added, "It's not clear if President Trump and his charges fear Mr. Weissmann as they gird for the slog ahead. It is quite clear, former colleagues and opponents say, that they should."

His reputation for gaining witness cooperation was acquired in two high-profile cases.

One was prosecuting mob bosses in Brooklyn two decades ago. Weissmann persuaded a prominent Mafia hitman, Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, to testify against Vincent "The Chin" Gigante, leader of the Genovese crime family, leading to his conviction.

The other followed the collapse of energy giant Enron in 2001. Weissmann helped gain fraud convictions of multiple executives by again showing his ability to convince witnesses to give damaging testimony.

The Manafort indictment disclosed Monday has been criticized because the charges do not appear related to alleged collusion with Russia. Instead, Manafort is accused of money laundering and not paying taxes well before he joined the Trump campaign.

Those critics, who include Sen. Rand Paul, complain of prosecutorial overreach.

They apparently are not aware of the way Wiessmann seeks to maximize leverage with defendants. If he can persuade Manafort that he is at risk of spending all of his remaining years in federal prison on those charges -- unless agreeing to become a prosecution witness -- he is far more likely to obtain valuable information regarding any campaign ties to Russia.

People who speak highly of Weissmann applaud him for pushing legal boundaries to win his cases. They say his use of hardball tactics demonstrates his determination to obtain vital evidence.

His detractors have taken a different view.

Dan Cogdell, who represented three Enron defendants against Weissmann, said, "He's the most aggressive prosecutor I've ever been up against. He is, if not win at all cost, he's win at almost any cost."

Sidney Powell, a Dallas attorney who also tangled with him in the Enron prosecutions, was more blunt and called attention to several of his legal victories overturned by appellate courts.

"The truth plays no role in Weissmann's quest," she wrote this week in an op-ed piece. "Respect for the rule of law, simple decency and following the facts do not appear in Weissmann's playbook."

Others have cited thousands of dollars in donations he's given to Democrats, including Barack Obama, and accuse him of political bias.

Following the indictments of Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates, plus the guilty plea of Trump campaign aide George Papadopolous, some conservative pundits this week called for the president to fire Mueller.

Given Mueller's reputation as a nonpartisan, honest and ethical prosecutor, I don't see that happening. But if it does, you can expect at least one more member of the team to get tossed.

I'd rank Weissmann as Trump's No. 1 worry.

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