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Andrew Weissman: Justice Department Spying Scandal ‘Reeks’ of Political Retribution

Andrew Weissman: Justice Department Spying Scandal ‘Reeks’ of Political Retribution

Andrew Weissman, one of ex-Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors in the Russia investigation, said on Friday that the secret spying campaign by the United States Department of Justice on political opponents of former President Donald Trump “reeks of being a political fishing expedition” and that its size and scope may be significantly more vast than initial reporting has so far indicated.


“What is a deputy attorney general like Lisa Monaco’s sort of situational awareness about the ongoing efforts to obtain reporters’ emails and about this, what is described as an extremely aggressive tactic for a non-corruption kind of investigation of subpoenaing the records of sitting members of Congress, their staff, and their children?” MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace asked on Deadline: White House.

“So there’s no question that to subpoena this kind of information you would need extensive factual predication and you would brief this to the highest levels in the FBI and the Justice Department. My educated guess about what’s going on here is the reason we’re seeing this – and I suspect are gonna see a lot more of this – is because these gag orders are running out and that the current Justice Department is not willing to stand behind them when they’re not warranted,” Weissman said.

“To me, that’s a sign as we saw last week with respect to going after reporters as [New York Times Washington correspondent Michael Schmidt] just mentioned were gag orders were not defended,” he continued. “I think in the reporting last night – that was great by The New York Times – I think what you’re seeing is these gag orders being lifted as information has now gone up to the DAG and the attorney general.”

Weissman added that Congress has a constitutional duty to exert greater oversight on the Executive Branch:

I suspect what’s going on is they’re shocked about what’s going on. I don’t think the response, though, of going to the inspector general is sufficient. That’s going to take years. The inspector general was notably absent during the Trump Administration and there has to be a systemic answer to this. I think there can be hearings and I think that Congress does have the power to require more out of the executive. So that I have no doubt that Merrick Garland is going to run a clean Justice Department, but that’s not the issue. The issue is what do we do when there’s no longer a Merrick Garland and somebody more like Attorney General [William] Barr. And Congress can require the Justice Department to make showings that are much, much higher than what they needed to show here, factually, and getting the court more involved so that you have a greater check on the so-called unitary executive, which I think is the heart of the problem here.

As a follow-up, Wallace asked, “what kind of thing would predicate an extremely broad and sweeping subpoena of records of an unknown number of members of Congress, staff, and children?”

Weissman replied that “it would be – you would need to have substantial evidence – so to me this is something where there’s just an unusual failure because it reeks of being a fishing expedition, which is how you get to autocracy.”

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