Former federal prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, who spent more than a year as one of Robert Mueller’s top deputies in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, unleashed harsh criticism on the Special Counsel’s Office in an interview with The Atlantic published on Monday. Weissmann, who now teaches law at New York University, particularly chastised the office for being too timid in the face of attacks from President Donald Trump. Weissmann said Mueller’s office let the constant threat of Mueller’s firing prevent the team from pursuing all possible leads in probing the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
“The specter of our being shut down exerted a kind of destabilizing pull on our decision-making process,” Weissmann told The Atlantic’s George Packer in an interview preceding the release of his new book, Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation.
According to the report, Weissmann’s book recounts several specific examples in which Mueller’s team refused to aggressively pursue members of the president’s family because they feared how Trump might react.
“For example, the special counsel shied away from subpoenaing Don Trump Jr. to testify about his notorious June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer offering dirt on Hillary Clinton,” the story said. “Ivanka Trump, who didn’t attend the meeting but talked with participants afterward in the lobby, and later discussed with her father how to conceal details from the press, was never even asked to speak with Mueller’s investigators.”
In Where Law Ends, Weissman said that the intimidation tactic effectively worked, writing that they “feared that hauling her in for an interview would play badly to the already antagonistic right-wing press—Look how they’re roughing up the president’s daughter—and risk enraging Trump, provoking him to shut down the Special Counsel’s Office once and for all.”
Additionally, Weissmann told Packer that the special counsel’s stated reasoning for not pursuing interviews with President Trump or his daughter was not simply to avoid a protracted legal battle, as the office claimed in the Mueller report. According to Packer, in the book, Weissmann asserts that “the real reason for not compelling the president to be interviewed was Mueller’s aversion to having an explosive confrontation with the White House.”
While portraying Mueller admirably, Weissmann’s book also takes issue with the decision not to explicitly state that the investigation concluded that President Trump committed obstruction of justice.
“I was flummoxed by Mueller’s thinking,” Weissmann wrote, adding that Mueller made “his own, freelance judgments about what was appropriate and not delivering on what he was tasked with doing.”
“When there is insufficient proof of a crime, in volume one, we say it. But when there is sufficient proof, with obstruction, we don’t say it. Who is going to be fooled by that? It’s so obvious,” Weissmann said.
[image via Win McNamee and Getty Images]
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