Mueller prosecutor explains why special counsel was scared of being fired by Trump for investigating finances
Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller being sworn in (Photo: Screen capture)

In an interview with MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell, former special counsel prosecutor Andrew Weissmann said that there are a lot of rules and problems that special counsel Robert Mueller's team faced that Americans were unaware of in the Russia investigation.

"I think the first thing that people need to understand is, for 22 months we were investigating somebody who had an unusual power, and that is he had the power to fire us," Weissmann explained. "I've prosecuted mobsters and Enron executives, and those can be tough cases. But the people you're looking at don't have that power to pull the plug on your investigation."

In his recently released tell-all book, Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation, Weissmann recalls a moment the Mueller team issued a subpoena to Deutsche Bank to look into any loans that might be underwritten by Russian leaders. The White House called asking if Mueller's team was doing an investigation into Trump's finances.

"Usually that's a red flag," said Weissmann. "That's something to look at. Director Mueller had a tough decision to make at that initial stage of the investigation which is, do you risk being fired and thus not continuing an investigation, or do you decide let's put that off 'til later. And he made the decision to do the latter. And that of course led to all sorts of prosecutions."

He went on to explain that the Mueller team did clearly uncover what Russia had been doing to interfere in the election for Trump. They also uncovered Paul Manafort giving polling data to a Russian operative and the Russian hack of the Democratic Party.

"So, all sorts of things came out of the investigation," he explained. "Where I take issue with the decision is that we didn't revisit it later in the day. And it seemed to me that later on in the investigation after we had proved all those things and proceeded, it was important for us at that point to do the full financial investigation that was warranted by the appointment order of the special counsel."

Mitchell noted that Americans thought that's what was happening and that Mueller could ultimately charge Trump with any misdeeds. It was far from reality.

"I was very concerned about the precedent that was set in terms of what will the next special counsel do," Weissmann said. "They will throw back in that special counsel's face what happened here. But one of the things I do in the book is to try and lay out ways in which I think the special counsel rules can be amended. As you know, Andrea, having -- being about my age, you know that these rules have changed over time from Watergate to Ken Starr to what we have now. And I think it would be really good for Congress and the Department of Justice to take a look at the rules under which the next special counsel operates so that the next special counsel Mueller has an easier time of making those decisions and has clear guidance from those rules as to what he's supposed to do, not the least of which would be the education function."

He noted that Americans assumed that a sitting president could be indicted, but Mueller had to follow the Department of Justice rules, and he couldn't come out to explain to Americans how that rule hampered his investigation.

"People thought that we were doing a full financial investigation and our report didn't clearly lay out what we did and did not do," Weissmann also explained. "And I think that educational function of the special counsel rules really needs to be enhanced going forward so we don't have this situation arise again."

See the full interview below: