A former prosecutor on Robert Mueller's team said in a new book that the special counsel decided not to pursue President Donald Trump's finances or interviews with his children over fears that the president would shut down the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Andrew Weissmann, who led the prosecution of former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort, blamed Aaron Zebley, Mueller's top deputy in the investigation, for stopping investigators from looking into the president's finances in his new book "Where the Law Ends," according to excerpts published by The Washington Post.
Weissmann wrote that Zebley also pushed another prosecutor to "stand down" from pursuing Trump Organization documents because it risked affecting the negotiations with the president's legal team to set up an interview with Trump. Trump ultimately did not appear for an interview and submitted written answers largely claiming not to recall key details.
"Aaron had a way of gaslighting you, of making you question your own reality, that you were being too aggressive in your drive to pursue leads and push harder — like you were not enough of an adult," he wrote.
"Repeatedly during our 22 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," he added, according to a New York Times report on the book.
Weissmann also argued that Mueller was wrong not to issue a subpoena to compel Trump's testimony.
"What are we saying to future presidents, and to future investigators, who will have our decision thrown in their face?" Weissmann said he told Mueller. "If we do not subpoena the president in this investigation, how can others justify the need to do so?"
Weissmann said he wonders whether the team had "given it our all" in light of the questions left unanswered by the probe.
"As proud as I am of the work our team did — the unprecedented number of people we indicted and convicted and in record speed for any similar investigation — I know the hard answer to that simple question: We could have done more," Weissmann wrote.
The former prosecutor listed a number of unanswered questions left open by the decision not to pursue Trump's financial records.
"We still do not know if there are other financial ties between the president and either the Russian government or Russian oligarchs," he wrote. "We do not know whether he paid bribes to foreign officials to secure favorable treatment for his business interests, a potential violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act that would provide leverage against the president. We do not know if he had other Russian business deals in the works at the time he was running for president, how they might have aided or constrained his campaign, or even if they are continuing to influence his presidency."