Jennifer Szalai reviews Andrew Weissmann’s new inside look at the Mueller investigation and hoo boy:
Mueller’s fundamental flaw, Weissmann says, was a persistent faith in a Justice Department headed by his old friend William Barr. The Mueller team had meticulously laid out their findings in their 448-page, antiseptically worded report, only to be “blindsided” by Barr’s four-page self-styled summary, which Weissmann depicts as a nakedly cynical distortion of the truth: “We had just been played by the attorney general.”
While there have been some exceptions — like Max Boot and the some of the Lincoln Project guys — the thing about elite Republicans who don’t go full Trumpite is that they tend to convince themselves that the Republican Party just suddenly became corrupt in March 2016 or something. To put faith in Bill Barr — the Iran Contra fixer who literally got his current position by writing a lengthy sua sponte mash note to Trump — to accurately characterize a report after you conspicuously refuse to draw conclusions yourself is more deluded than a Jets fan who thinks Adam Gase going to lead them to a Super Bowl this year.
They also left out important information because the public would find it too interesting:
Yet the president isn’t the main subject of this book’s investigation — that evidence was already compiled in the Mueller report. What Weissmann’s book provides is the inside story of how the country’s institutions have so far failed, he says, to hold a “lawless White House” to account. Weissmann describes two factions on the Mueller team — those who tried to push for a tougher approach, and others like Mueller’s deputy, Aaron Zebley, who could be cautious to the point of rank timidity. On the subject of Russian interference in the 2016 election, Mueller’s team had found communications among professional trolls, employed by the Kremlin, crowing about their celebrations after Trump won. Zebley insisted they omit such evidence from their final report, Weissmann says, for fear that it was “too salacious.”
I mean, that has to be outright ratfucking. Nobody could be that naive about how the media works.
Once Comey and the rest of his aides got down to discussing the issue, they quickly agreed they needed to seek a search warrant for the Clinton emails on the Weiner laptop. Comey felt there was another, larger issue to be tackled: He believed he had an ethical obligation to notify Congress that the case was being reopened. That view was not shared by everyone around the table.
Over the course of two meetings on consecutive days, the group considered a number of scenarios, most of which involved the FBI being blamed in one form or another for helping elect Hillary Clinton. By their own measure, they did not discuss the other possibility — whether Trump could benefit and win, and if the FBI might be blamed for that.
By his own telling, Comey explicitly ruled out even considering whether his actions might elect Trump, arguing it would be fatal for the FBI to consider the political consequences of their actions. “Down that path lies the death of the FBI,” he declared.
It was not just Comey who thought that way. Among his senior advisers, few gave much credence to the idea that Trump had a real shot of winning the election.
That Friday, Comey sent a short letter to Congressional leaders announcing the FBI “has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation.”
Pandora’s box had been opened.
The letter that blew up the world was motivated by a combination of Comey’s 1)total assurance that Donald Trump couldn’t win 2)belief that the impact of the FBI’s potential impact on the election had to be selectively ignored despite FBI guidelines forbidding disclosures that could impact the election, and, most importantly 3)conviction that there was probable cause that the EMAILS on Weiner’s laptop would implicate Clinton in wrongdoing when in fact there was no reason whatsoever to think they would implicate Clinton in any wrongdoing.
If Biden wins, there needs to be one rule above all for staffing the top levels of the executive branch: No Republicans.