Mueller prosecutor once said that if Republicans 'retain the House, we all need to retain criminal lawyers' because 'that's how bats— crazy they are,' new book says

  • Former special counsel Robert Mueller's team was acutely aware that the "third act in this play would be an inevitable investigation of us, by the Trump administration, when our investigation was complete," Andrew Weissmann, a former prosecutor who worked on Mueller's team, wrote in his new book.
  • The jokes "took on a darker hue" ahead of the November 2018 midterms, when another prosecutor in Mueller's office, Jeannie Rhee, said that if Republicans "retain the House, we all need to retain criminal lawyers. That's how bats— crazy they are. I am not joking."
  • "And I knew she wasn't," Weissmann wrote. "Jeannie was savvy about the ways of Washington, to a degree that I was not, and I took her seriously."
  • In the months since Mueller's investigation ended, the attorney general has directed multiple internal inquiries into Mueller's probe, and President Trump has called for several members of his team to be criminally prosecuted, despite no evidence of wrongdoing.
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As the special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation was picking up speed in 2018, Jeannie Rhee, a prosecutor on his team, warned that if Republicans maintained control of the House of Representatives after that year's midterm election, "we all need to retain criminal lawyers."

That's according to "Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation," a memoir by the former federal prosecutor Andrew Weissmann that was released Tuesday. Weissmann worked on Mueller's team and spearheaded its investigation into the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Rhee made the remark about hiring defense attorneys amid a steady drumbeat of claims from the White House and congressional Republicans that Mueller's office was on a politically motivated "witch hunt" against President Donald Trump.

As Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election gained steam in 2017 and 2018, "one thing that the whole office soon realized was that the third act in this play would be an inevitable investigation of us, by the Trump administration, when our investigation was complete," Weissmann wrote. "Trump would surely try to undermine every move we had made in order to burnish his standing and consolidate his power."

"This led to more gallows humor within the office," he wrote. "Whenever someone gave an opinion or spun out a possible theory to test that out, someone would pipe up: 'Write that down, that will be for the investigation of the investigators.'"

The jokes "took on a darker hue" ahead of the November 2018 midterm elections, Weissmann continued.

"If they retain the House," Rhee said, "we all need to retain criminal lawyers. That's how bats— crazy they are. I am not joking," according to the book.

"And I knew she wasn't," Weissmann wrote. "Jeannie was savvy about the ways of Washington, to a degree that I was not, and I took her seriously."

Rhee's comment turned out to be prescient. In the months since Mueller's team finished its work, Attorney General William Barr has directed multiple internal inquiries into the special counsel's investigation, even though the Justice Department inspector general determined that the FBI was authorized in launching the Russia probe and that its actions were not motivated by political bias.

Trump has repeatedly accused prosecutors and FBI agents on Mueller's team of going on a fishing expedition, and he's called for several members of the special counsel's office and Justice Department to be criminally prosecuted.

The president and his allies have also amplified a bogus conspiracy theory suggesting that the Obama administration secretly masterminded the Russia probe to sabotage Trump's campaign and undermine his presidency.

As Weissmann wrote: "The leader of the free world has asked the Department of Justice to go after Democrats, has advocated the indictment of [former FBI director James] Comey [former FBI deputy director Andrew] McCabe, [former FBI special agent Peter] Strzok, and others, and even accused Mueller of perjury. He and Barr have subverted the rule of law by providing unequal treatment to his cronies … They dismissed the Russian hack and dump case against a Russian company … The world has indeed gone topsy-turvy — 'might makes right' overwhelming the rule of law."

Weissmann's memoir offers one of the most detailed windows yet into the inner workings of Mueller's team as it conducted an unprecedented investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election, and whether the sitting president's campaign conspired with a foreign power to tilt the race in his favor.

Ultimately, Mueller's team did not find sufficient evidence to charge anyone on the Trump campaign with conspiracy, according to the special counsel's final report on the investigation. However, Mueller's team indicted 34 people and three Russian entities, and those indictments resulted in seven guilty pleas and five prison sentences for crimes that included conspiracy, obstruction of justice, lying to the FBI, and computer hacking.

Prosecutors also examined whether Trump sought to obstruct justice throughout the course of the inquiry and reached a murkier conclusion.

They declined to make a "traditional prosecutorial judgment" on whether the president had obstructed justice but emphasized that if they had confidence that Trump had not committed a crime, they would have said so. As justification for their decision, prosecutors cited a 1973 Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel memo, which prohibited the indictment of a sitting president. They also noted that the appropriate constitutional remedy for formally accusing the president of wrongdoing lies with Congress.

In his memoir, Weissmann expressed frustration with Mueller's decision not to take a firm stance in the obstruction case. He said that he decided to write his book after Barr released a four-page letter to the public that deeply mischaracterized Mueller's findings. In doing so, he wrote, Barr had "betrayed both friend and country," referring to Barr's previous friendship with Mueller.

Overall, Weissmann wrote 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. "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."

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