A senior member of Robert Mueller’s team says the special adviser was too shy in his investigation of Donald Trump and his ties to Moscow during the 2016 election campaign.
“We could have done more,” writes attorney Andrew Weissmann in a book, Where Law Ends, which will be published next week.
Weissmann’s title is taken from an inscription on the front of the Washington Department of Justice, which is taken from the philosopher John Locke: “Where the law ends, tyranny begins.”
Weissmann says Mueller and his chief deputy, Aaron Zebley, avoided steps that would lead to confrontation with the White House, including subpoenas for financial documents and interviewing the president and his family members.
“Repeatedly during our 22 months of operation,” writes Weissmann, according to Atlantic, “we would reach a critical moment in our investigation, only to have Aaron say that we could not take particular action because it risked aggravating the president over a few indefinite breaking point. “
Weissmann says Mueller was afraid of being fired.
According to the New York Times, he writes: “Had we used all available tools to uncover the truth, undeterred by the onslaught of the president’s unique powers to undermine our efforts? I know the difficult answer to this simple question: we could have done more. “
The Times also claimed that Weissmann “elevates” surprising details stemming from Mueller’s work, “for example, that the same corporate account that sent silent payments to an adult movie star who claimed an extramarital affair with Trump also received ‘payments linked to a Russian oligarch “.”
Trump denies the deal. Mueller approved an investigation into payments to Stormy Daniels, made by Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, to New York authorities. Cohen, who has now published his book on Trump, has served time in prison.
The special advisor’s report was released in April 2019. Weissmann said the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on Russia, released last month, “was better.”
“He made judgments and calls,” he said to the Atlantic, “instead of saying,” You could say this and you could say that. “
The Senate report went to 1,000 pages and established contacts between Trump and Moscow, including links between a Russian agent and campaign manager Paul Manafort, and close ties to Trump’s ally Roger Stone with WikiLeaks and the probable candidate briefing.
Weissmann led the prosecution of Manafort, who was sentenced to more than seven years. Stone was sentenced to 40 months, a punishment later commuted by Trump.
When the Senate report was published, Scott Horton, a professor at Columbia Law School, told the Guardian, “The committee offers a much deeper insight into intelligence gathered by US authorities than the much more meager Mueller report. It will support the view that Mueller, far from exonerating Trump, simply expected to pass the baton to Congress to conduct more thorough investigations. “
Mueller, a former FBI director, told Congress not to exonerate Trump. He has also repeatedly claimed that he has worked to a DoJ standard which says that an incumbent president cannot be indicted.
Mueller has not established a criminal conspiracy between Trump and Moscow, but has established extensive contacts between the campaign and Russia and numerous cases of possible obstruction of justice.
Of Attorney General William Barr’s infamous summary of Mueller, pro-Trump and delivered before the report was public, Weissmann writes: “Barr had betrayed both friend and country.”
Mueller did not follow an in-person interview with Trump. In his bestseller Fear, Bob Woodward famously quoted attorney John Dowd as saying he didn’t want his client to sit down with the special adviser because the president was “a fucking liar.”
Weissmann writes that Mueller simply wanted to avoid confrontation.
“The specter of our closure has exerted a kind of destabilizing push on our decision-making process,” he writes, according to Atlantic.
Speaking to the magazine, Weissmann added: “There is no doubt that I was frustrated at the time. More could have been done that we have not done. “
He said he didn’t just blame Mueller.
“I wouldn’t just call him Mueller,” he said. “I would say ‘the office’. There are many things we have done well and many things we could have done better, to be diplomatic about it. “