WASHINGTON (CN) — Former special counsel Robert Mueller issued a rare public statement Tuesday pushing back on the assertion by a prosecutor in his office that the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election was not aggressive enough.
Andrew Weissmann, a former special counsel’s office prosecutor, released his book “Where Law Ends” on Tuesday, which alleges that the Mueller team botched its investigation into President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia. Weissmann argues that the team did not aggressively look into certain issues because there was concern Trump could shut the entire probe down.
The book’s publication prompted Mueller to make his first public statement in months, strongly opposing the characterization of the agency’s approach to investigating the president.
“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,” Mueller said in a statement first reported by the Washington Post. “The office’s mission was to follow the facts and to act with integrity. That is what we did, knowing that our work would be scrutinized from all sides.”
Mueller issued no public statements throughout the investigation. He’s also been quiet about the probe since it ended, only penning an opinion piece in the Post this summer defending his office. He wrote that GOP strategist Roger Stone, whose prison sentence was commuted by Trump the same month, was still a convicted felon and that the investigation was of “paramount importance.”
The former special counsel reiterated Tuesday that he stood by his decisions and the investigation’s conclusions, released in a nearly 450-page document in April 2019.
“When important decisions had to be made, I made them,” Mueller said in his statement, which did not specifically refer to Weissmann’s book. “I did so as I have always done, without any interest in currying favor or fear of the consequences.”
The two-year probe collected 34 indictments including charges against Stone as well as Paul Manafort, former Trump campaign chairman, and Michael Flynn, former national security adviser for the president. Several Russian nationals and a St. Petersburg-based company accused of funding the troll farms that favored Trump’s candidacy in 2016 were also charged.
While it did not say outright whether the president obstructed justice, the Mueller report outlined significant evidence of obstruction, such as Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey. The report also details the genesis of Trump’s relationship with Russia starting in 2015 with the construction of a Moscow skyscraper.
Weissmann’s book zeroes in on what he considers failures in Mueller’s investigation, such as not stating explicitly that investigators believed Trump obstructed justice. He also wrote that the team was limited by a constant fear the president would disband the investigation, which he said led to a reluctance to take aggressive steps.
Weissmann said he knew he was going to write his book when Attorney General William Barr issued a four-page summary on the special counsel’s report weeks before it was publicly released. Barr’s letter “bore no resemblance to our report in substance or conclusions,” he wrote.
“I realized at that point that it was going to be a real benefit to the American public to have an insider record, as candidly as possible, what had happened,” the book states.
The book’s release and Mueller’s comments come a week after the Justice Department released documents relating to an investigation into the origins of the Russia probe. One FBI agent interviewed by investigators said a “get Trump” attitude existed among some members of Mueller’s team.