Mueller Investigation Skipped Ivanka Trump For Fear President Would “Shut Down Special Counsel Once And For All”
Andrew Weissmann, a member of Robert Mueller’s investigative team during the probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, has written a book, and it’s spilling new details about the process, and the experiences of investigating the president. Among other things, he explained why Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. escaped questioning. Investigators feared, Weissmann says, that the president would shut down the entire office of the Special Counsel if his family was involved.
According to Raw Story, an early exerpt from the book, which is due out at the end of the month, reveals that investigators considered questioning Donald Trump’s children, but realized that putting pressure on Don Jr., and especially Ivanka, would be easily spun.
Weissman says that some members of the team, including attorney Aaron Zebley, fought for more caution in proceedings, often shutting down more aggressive investigative actions.
[Investigators] feared that hauling [Ivanka] 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.
Repeatedly during our twenty-two months in operation, we would reach some critical juncture in our investigation only to have Aaron say that we could not take a particular action because it risked aggravating the president beyond some undefined breaking point.
Despite his apparent role in slowing some investigative actions, Zebley has been the specific target of Trump rage. When Robert Mueller was called to testify before Congress, Trump tweeted outrage at Zebley — who he called a “Democrat Never Trumper lawyer” — joining Mueller for the questioning.
It was NEVER agreed that Robert Mueller could use one of his many Democrat Never Trumper lawyers to sit next to him and help him with his answers. This was specifically NOT agreed to, and I would NEVER have agreed to it. The Greatest Witch Hunt in U.S. history, by far!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 24, 2019
The Washington Post described Zebley at the time as a surprising target for Trump’s attacks:
Once a globe-trotting special agent, he spent years hunting terrorists before becoming a federal prosecutor and then Mueller’s chief of staff at the FBI. He’s also apolitical, despite Trump’s claims, with no donations to either party, according to federal records.
His brief role in a private practice representing an aide to Hillary Clinton during the charges regarding her use of a private server has, however, made him a subject of attack from not only Trump, but right-wing pundits and news sources, such as Tucker Carlson, in the clip below from 2017.
TUCKER CARLSON: Mueller's "right hand man," Aaron Zebley, was an attorney for Hillary Clinton's IT aide Justin Cooper pic.twitter.com/sBDZpiFSlA
— Josh Caplan (@joshdcaplan) December 8, 2017
The Atlantic reports that Andrew Weissmann’s book names two major errors in the probe: failing to subpoena Trump, and failing to say explicitly that Trump obstructed justice. Weissmann says that he was “flummoxed” at the decision not to state clearly what the evidence showed — “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.”