- Andrew Weissmann, a former prosecutor on the special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, offered a scathing review of Mueller’s handling of the probe and the actions of President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr in an upcoming tell-all.
- Trump is “like an animal, clawing at the world with no concept of right and wrong,” Weissmann wrote in his book, according to The Atlantic.
- Barr, meanwhile, “betrayed both friend and country” by deeply mischaracterizing Mueller’s findings before his report was released to the public last year.
- But Weissmann leveled some of his most damning criticisms toward Mueller, saying the special counsel’s fear of Trump stopped his team from investigating Trump’s shady business dealings with Russia and gaining leverage over the president.
- Asked whether Mueller had let down the American public, Weissmann told The Atlantic: “Absolutely, yep.”
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Andrew Weissmann, a prosecutor who worked on the former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, offers a scathing account of Mueller’s handling of the probe, President Donald Trump, and Attorney General William Barr.
Trump is “like an animal, clawing at the world with no concept of right and wrong,” Weissmann wrote in his book, “Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation.” That’s according to The Atlantic, which obtained an early copy of the book.
He went on to describe Trump as a “lawless” president and portrayed Barr as a partisan Trump lackey who “betrayed both friend and country.” Weissmann was likely referring to Barr’s longstanding friendship with Mueller before he took over as attorney general. That relationship soured when Barr released a four-page letter last year that deeply mischaracterized Mueller’s findings in the Russia probe before the special counsel’s report was released to the public.
Mueller’s report said prosecutors did not find sufficient evidence to establish a conspiracy between members of the Trump campaign and the Russian government during the 2016 election.
It also said Mueller’s team declined to make a “traditional prosecutorial judgment” on whether or not Trump obstructed justice in the course of the investigation. The report cited a longstanding Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memo that says a sitting president cannot be indicted. It noted, however, that if prosecutors “had confidence” that Trump had not committed a crime, they would have said so.
Barr’s letter describing Mueller’s findings said the special counsel found “no collusion” between Trump and Russia — a non-legal term that Trump and his allies often amplified. The attorney general also cleared Trump of obstruction of justice, even though Mueller’s office declined to make a judgment in the matter.
Weissmann told The Washington Post that he decided to write his book after reading Barr’s letter.
“I wrote it very much so there would be a public record from somebody, at least one viewpoint, from the inside as opposed to the story being told in maybe a less accurate way by people from the outside,” he told the Post.
But the former prosecutor, who is now a professor at New York University and an MSNBC legal analyst, leveled most of his frustration over the investigation at the former special counsel himself.
When asked if Mueller had let down the American public, Weissmann told The Atlantic, “Absolutely, yep.” He added: “I wouldn’t phrase it as just Mueller. I would say ‘the office.’ There are a lot of things we did well, and a lot of things we could have done better, to be diplomatic about it.”
“There’s no question I was frustrated at the time,” he told the outlet. “There was more that could be done that we didn’t do.” He added that the Senate Intelligence Committee did a better job reaching concrete conclusions in its recent report detailing the panel’s own investigation into Russian election meddling.
“Even with 1,000 pages, it was better,” he said. “It made judgments and calls, instead of saying, ‘You could say this and you could say that.'”
Overall, he wrote in his book that the Russia probe was hampered by its own internal strife and a special counsel who held back out of fear that Trump would shut down the office altogether and pardon associates who were charged.
“Like Congress, we were guilty of not pressing as hard as we could” for evidence, he wrote, according to The Atlantic. “Part of the reason the president and his enablers were able to spin the report was that we had left the playing field open for them to do so.”
Elsewhere in the book, Weissmann wrote that Mueller’s team pulled back from investigating Trump’s financial ties to the Russian government and oligarchs, according to The Post. “We do not know whether he paid bribes to foreign officials to secure favorable treatment for his business interests, a potential violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act that would provide leverage against the president. We do not know if he had other Russian business deals in the works at the time he was running for president, how they might have aided or constrained his campaign, or even if they are continuing to influence his presidency.”
Mueller declined to provide comment to both The Post and The Atlantic.
Weissmann’s words are partially corroborated in the explosive tell-all that the former FBI agent Peter Strzok, who was fired from Mueller’s team in 2017, released earlier this month. Mueller ousted Strzok from the investigation following the revelation of anti-Trump texts that he exchanged with Lisa Page, an FBI lawyer he was having an extramarital affair with at the time. Strzok was fired from the FBI in 2018 over the text messages.
In his book, “Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J. Trump,” Strzok referenced Trump’s finances and said he believes the president is compromised by Russia because of his business dealings, controversial transactions at his now-defunct charity, illegal hush-money payments to women, and most of all, his “lies about his Russia dealings.”
Ultimately, Weissmann wrote that Mueller’s team was hamstrung by the special counsel’s decision not to probe Trump’s finances after the president warned that doing so would be crossing a “red line.” They were also stymied by the president’s public praise of associates who did not cooperate with Mueller’s team and repeated assertions that he has the “absolute” to grant pardons to whomever he wished. That, Weissmann wrote, stopped prosecutors from pushing the president’s associates as hard as possible, according to The Atlantic.
“This sword of Damocles affected our investigative decisions, leading us at certain times to act less forcefully and more defensively than we might have,” Weissmann wrote, according to The Post. “It led us to delay or ultimately forgo entire lines of inquiry, particularly regarding the president’s financial ties to Russia.”
The book described several other investigative avenues that Mueller and his top deputy, Aaron Zebley, shut down out of fear of Trump’s retaliation, including:
- Subpoenaing Donald Trump Jr. over his participation in an infamous June 2016 meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer at Trump Tower to discuss information that would “incriminate Hillary [Clinton] and her dealings with Russia.” The meeting was pitched to Trump Jr. as being “part of Russia and its government’s support” for the Trump campaign.
- Bringing Ivanka Trump, the president’s eldest daughter, in for an interview with prosecutors. Ivanka Trump pushed the president’s then-lawyer, Michael Cohen, to meet with a Russian athlete who could help secure a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. She also attended a planning meeting during which Donald Trump Jr. mentioned the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, according to witness testimony.
- Mueller “feared that hauling her in for an interview would play badly to the already antagonistic right-wing press … and risk enraging Trump, provoking him to shut down the Special Counsel’s Office once and for all,” Weissmann wrote, according to The Atlantic.
He also said he was “flummoxed” by Mueller’s thought process in the obstruction investigation. Mueller was “making his own, freelance judgments about what was appropriate and not delivering on what he was tasked with doing,” Weissmann told The Atlantic.
He also told The Post that he wished Congress had done more with the final report but declined to comment on whether or not Trump should have been impeached.
“That’s not my call,” he said.