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Report: Robert Mueller’s top prosecutor to step away from Russia probe
The White House / CCL
Robert Mueller’s “legal pitbull” is headed out the door.
According to reports, top prosecutor Andrew Weissmann is set to leave the special counsel’s probe into alleged collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign team and the Kremlin to pursue other projects.
Weissmann’s departure has renewed speculation that Mueller’s investigation may finally be coming to close after more than two years of digging.
Tapped by Mueller to be his deputy special counsel, Weissmann led the prosecution against President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who was sentenced this week to a seven-year prison term for bank fraud and conspiracy. Weissmann is the senior-most prosecutor to leave the special counsel after two other investigators departed Mueller’s team earlier this month.
Weissmann has developed a reputation for being a tyrant in the courtroom, intimidating witnesses with threats and bludgeoning suspects until they plead guilty to crimes that don’t exist. Several high-profile cases involving Weissmann were later overturned when major oversights and abuses were discovered upon appeal.
And yet, Mueller continued to promote and protect Weissmann during his tenure as FBI director, even after the Columbia Law School graduate became the target of a New York State Bar Association complaint for “unlawfully obstruct[ing]” the defense’s “access to evidence” in the famous Enron investigation. It came as no surprise, then, when Mueller tapped Weissmann to do his dirty work when it came to the controversial Russia investigation.
“What was supposed to have been a search for Russia’s cyberspace intrusions into our electoral politics has morphed into a malevolent mission targeting friends, family and colleagues of the president,” explained Sidney Powell, a former federal prosecutor who wrote a book detailing Weismann’s misconduct as head of the Enron Task Force. “The Mueller investigation has become an all-out assault to find crimes pin on them — and it won’t matter if there are no crimes to be found. This team can make some.”
Weissmann’s place on the special counsel attracted an immediate backlash after reports confirmed he has donated several thousand dollars to Democratic campaigns and causes, and he was even a guest of Hillary Clinton’s ill-fated election night party. But if Weissmann was concerned about projecting the image of a partisan hack, he certainly didn’t show it by the way he went after former Trump officials suspected of white collar criminal offenses.
Even though the special counsel noted that Manafort “consistently cooperated with law enforcement” throughout their investigation, that didn’t stop Weissmann from ordering a pre-dawn raid on the 69-year-old’s Alexandria, VA home in August 2017.
Federal agents held Manafort’s wife at gunpoint in her nightgown while authorities searched the property for evidence of tax evasion.
If the Manafort raid seemed like a heavy-handed case of prosecutorial overkill, then Weissmann’s warrant to take down former Trump advisor Roger Stone was a veritable siege. Powell described that arrest in a Daily Caller op-ed:
Stone not only had counsel but certainly would have turned himself in to authorities. He had appeared many times. But hey, those 29 federal agents, 17 vehicles, a helicopter, a boat, and frogmen were all required — with CNN pre-positioned on site — because Stone was obviously dangerous. In fact, Stone’s so dangerous, the judge immediately released him on his own recognizance.
Picking up the pieces
Judicial experts are just now beginning to get to the bottom of the potential abuses from Weissmann’s office during the Russia probe. In a closed-door interview with Justice Department senior official Bruce Ohr, House investigators learned that Weissmann was inappropriately brought in to the FBI’s Trump investigation during its earliest stages, and he was even briefed about the unverified dossier that the Hillary Clinton campaign put together to smear Trump before the 2016 election.
According to a July 2018 Politico report, Weissmann used evidence gathered from Associated Press reporters during an April 2017 interview with Manafort. The AP journalists handed over the access code to a storage unit Manafort rented that was supposed to contain evidence of Trump’s business dealings in Eastern Europe.
“Weissmann has a pattern of wrecking lives with his prosecutorial terrorist tactics, then slinking away when someone catches on to his tactics and before the reversals start rolling in,” said Powell.
This time, however, Mueller’s pit-bull prosecutor may have gone too far. Ironically, Weissmann’s new job will take him to New York University, where he will join the faculty and take on projects aimed at “preventing wrongful convictions.”
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