From 2017 to 2019, Andrew Weissmann served as a lead prosecutor in Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel’s Office, which was tasked with investigating Russian interference in the 2016 US election. At an NYU Law Forum on October 13, Weissmann, who is now a partner at Jenner & Block as well as a distinguished senior fellow and adjunct professor of law at NYU Law, discussed his new book, Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation, which describes the two-year investigation from the perspective of a lawyer who helped direct it.
“I just knew that this was going to be lost to history if there was not an actual insider account,” Weissmann said of his decision to write the book. He added: “I wasn’t writing this for Bob Mueller, I was writing it for a historical record, and I was going to need to be candid about what we did well and what I thought we could have done better.”
Watch the full discussion:
At the Forum, sponsored by Latham & Watkins, Weissmann was joined in conversation with Ryan Goodman, Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Professor of Law; and Courtney Oliva, executive director of the Center on the Administration of Criminal Law. The discussion was moderated by Rachel Barkow, vice dean and Segal Family Professor of Regulatory Law and Policy.
The panelists discussed internal debates that happened within Mueller’s team, including whether the president should be subpoenaed and whether the Office of Special Counsel should assert that the president had obstructed justice.
Selected remarks from the discussion:
Andrew Weissmann: “People don’t realize that because we were a part of the Department of Justice [DOJ], our indictments had to be signed off on through a whole bunch of regulations. So, we couldn’t bring a tax charge against [Paul] Manafort without the tax division approving it. We couldn’t bring [Foreign Agents Registration Act] and national security charges without the national security division approving it…so our indictments were DOJ-approved indictments. In other words, this is no witch hunt, unless you think the entire DOJ is a witch hunt.” (video 30:23)
Ryan Goodman: “There’s one way that people frame what Bob Mueller did and all sorts of big questions as, ‘He’s the person who stayed in his lane. He’s the person who understood his limited role and he stuck to his role.’ But…he was not under a duty to do what he did. There was the freedom to tell the attorney general in an internal report, ‘This is sufficient for a criminal indictment’…and I think the argument is in favor that this is actually what is called on him to do.” (video 58:04)
Rachel Barkow: “Part of what you realize in the book is that you guys were kind of an island out there. And what should have been happening, I feel, is that if you thought Congress had your back, if you thought the attorney general had your back, if you thought these places in the past that we’ve looked toward to uphold norms were going to back you up, this could have worked so much better.” (video 1:12:02)
Posted November 16, 2020