Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller has spoken out following the release of a book by Andrew Weissman, who served on the Mueller-led Russia investigation. Weissman was critical of the team’s work — which he himself was a prominent part of — claiming that they frequently held themselves back or were held back by senior members on account of concern about potential political retaliation from Donald Trump. In short, according to Weissman, the fear was that President Trump could order the disbanding of the team if they frustrated him enough. In a new statement, Mueller called it “disappointing to hear criticism of our team based on incomplete information,” suggesting that Weissman may not have been privy to parts of the decision-making process that Mueller feels were key.
Mueller’s defense of his investigation also stands in stark contrast to the president’s own repeated complaints. Mueller said:
‘It is not surprising that members of the Special Counsel’s Office did not always agree, but it is disappointing to hear criticism of our team based on incomplete information… When important decisions had to be made, I made them. I did so as I have always done, without any interest in currying favor or fear of the consequences. I stand by those decisions and by the conclusions of our investigation.’
As The Washington Post reports, in his book, Weissman specifically singles out top Mueller deputy Aaron Zebley for criticism. Weissman writes that it “was agonizing to be told, again and again by Aaron, not to follow any of these leads, and always according to the same defective rationale: that we couldn’t afford to be fired over it.” Mueller, meanwhile, counters that Zebley “was privy to the full scope of the investigation and all that was at issue.” Mueller, notably, did not directly mention or address Weissman in his statement, but the spark for it was clear.
Weissman has implied that if he had final control over the final report from the investigative team, then he would have directly laid out a conclusion that Trump obstructed justice, which was one of their areas of investigation. Mueller, via the final report, did not offer a definitive conclusion; he simply insisted that the report did not exonerate the president, instead presenting the evidence. Trump and his allies have claimed that the president achieved full exoneration via the conclusion of Mueller’s investigation, but in terms of the actual results of the probe, this claim just is not true.