MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace often hosts overtly political former Justice Department officials on her weekday Trump-centric show. On Monday, the Deadline: White House guest of honor was former Mueller goon Andrew Weissmann, who “violently” (his word for it) rejected the idea that the Justice Department should decline to go after Trump for fear of looking overtly political. This he compared to a hypothetical 1950s DA not prosecuting the murder of a black person out of fear of upsetting the KKK.
The centerpiece of the segment was a Washington Post piece by Aaron C. Davis and Carol Leonnig, titled “FBI Resisted probing Trump’s Actions to Steal 2020 Election.” The authors appeared to believe they had exposed a worrying culture of Trump appeasement at the DOJ, because some of the department’s top brass were worried that prosecuting a former President — and the current president’s chief political rival — would appear innately political.
In other words, as was literally always the case whenever Nicolle Wallace starts taking shots at the Department of Justice, the scandal was that federal law enforcement agencies were not pursuing Trump aggressively enough. Andrew Weissmann (D-FBI) was brought in to react to this “bombshell” revelation. Let’s go through some of his most alarming statements:
I am in violent agreement with everything that Carol [Leonnig] said… According to The Washington Post, over and over again the Department’s leadership was saying no to an investigation. That is inherently political. Obviously it’s not on the same plane, it’s not on the same level as what Barr did, where you’re actively going after people because of politics, but not going after people is also a real wrong.
Weissmann’s framing here was no less than a complete inversion of reality. Recall that in 2022, Merrick Garland sent the FBI to raid the former President’s residence, and he appointed a Special Counsel to investigate him. Meanwhile, the FBI under Barr sat on evidence that was damaging to Biden, and none of Trump’s Attorneys General lifted a finger against the current President.
It is a fool’s errand to try and worry about public perception as long as you’re doing the right thing. You know, you’re not — there’s a certain percentage of the population you’re not going to win over. So just depoliticize the department by not taking into consideration politics. For the same reason, I don’t think Merrick Garland should be thinking before you charge a former President, “Gee, what will the people think about it?”
Weissmann appeared to be arguing here that the only way for the DOJ to behave apolitically was by prosecuting the frontrunner in the Republican presidential primary. Let’s apply that same standard to Hillary Clinton, whom FBI Director Comey declined to prosecute in 2016 despite evidence of wrongdoing because he feared charging the Democratic frontrunner would appear overtly political.
Pretty weird how Weissmann was perfectly happy with no charges being brought when the accused had a D next to her name! Also note how he framed prosecuting Trump as so clearly “the right thing” that he didn’t even bother to justify the assertion.
And just to take an example, do you not charge people in the 1950s for murdering or assaulting members of the black population because you’re worried about what the Ku Klux Klan is going to think in certain parts of the world?
Now is as good a time as any to remind everyone that Weissmann played a leading role in the Mueller investigation. If you have an issue with Merrick Garland going after Biden’s political enemies, the guy who helped steer the years-long Mueller investigation thinks you’re a Klansman.
This delusion-laced segment was brought to you by Progressive. To read a full transcript of the exchange, click “expand” below:
MSNBC’s Deadline: White House
4:16 — 4:20 p.m. ET
NICOLLE WALLACE: Where the Barr Justice Department was aggressively, proactively political through its actions, the Garland Justice Department has been equally political through inaction, and through reluctance. If there was truly a culture, as Carol Leonnig reports, that saying “Trump” was taboo, that they were walking on eggshells because of who had committed the crime, that is a political culture. And I wonder your thoughts, you and I have had many conversations on and off television about all of this — I wonder your thoughts’ about Carol’s bombshell reporting.
ANDREW WEISSMANN: Well, first I can’t commend more to everyone reading that piece in the Washington Post. It’s incredible reporting, and it’s really, I think., a perfect example of why we need the fourth estate, why we need to have really great investigative journalists. Because that’s what we expect from our political leaders, from all sorts of people that they’re going to be candid, but it doesn’t always happen. And I am in violent agreement with everything that Carol said, and her piece completely rings true to me, both in terms of knowing the department, and in the small pieces of sort of anecdotal evidence that I’ve been aware of.
And then Nicolle, to your point, I completely agree that if you have what you think is a noble intent of trying to make sure that the department is restored, and you’re trying to depoliticize what Attorney General Barr did to the department, the answer is not appeasement. History has never shown that appeasement is the answer. I agree with you that it is taking politics into account when you decide that you’re going to create a higher standard before you look at somebody who committed a crime.
And my word! When you’re prosecuting so many low-level people for insurrection, the idea that there was so much evidence staring you in the face, but according to the Washington Post, over and over again the Department’s leadership was saying no to an investigation, that is inherently political. Obviously it’s not on the same plane, it’s not on the same level as what Barr did, where you’re actively going after people because of politics, but not going after people is also a real wrong, and we’re suffering the consequences of it now, because there has been delay. And as Carol rightly said, there is a race with the clock in terms of what Jack Smith is doing.
WALLACE: We also had flashpoints. I’m going to go through some of the reporting, because it’s just — Carol takes us into the se rooms that we would otherwise never get inside of. It really is a rare and important piece of journalism. But I just — I wanna pulll you out a little bit on this, Andrew Weissmann. I mean, the Idea — and let’s just put it out there, right? — Comey said it on my show a few weeks ago: he’s worried they’re fighting the last war. That because of his statements and his actions and the impact they had on a presidential election, he’s worried that maybe people overcorrect. That is a real thing inside that building. And maybe, whether it’s justified or not, I’ll stay out of that debate, but there is a sense of fighting the last war.
There is also a thing where institutionalists have been heartbroken by watching Trump destroy institutions. And os in response, they’ve done abnormal things in service of rebuilding institutions. My question is always to these people: for whom are you restoring it? Because the people who stormed the Capitol, they don’t give a you-know-what whether you restore DOJ. And the people who would like to see it restored, would like to see it act as though it’s truly blind to the person committing the crime. So my question is, who are they acting so hunkered down and bunker-mentality in service of? Jim Jordan? Donald Trump? Bill [Barr] — I mean, who are they looking to, to decide what an d when they should do something more aggressive about Donald Trump, Andrew?
WEISSMANN: Well, I do think it’s useful to think about what the, at least, facial argument was that we heard from Merrick Garland and Lisa Monaco. The Deputy Attorney General, Lisa Monaco, actually gave a speech at the University of Chicago, where she talked about how the department goes after people — I’m sorry, how it goes after crimes, not people. Meaning, we won’t investigate Donald Trump until we have sufficient predication of a crime. And that was sort of the mantra, and then there was sort of this bottom-up mantra, that we’re going to investigate this as we do organized crime cases, or Enron. The problem is, both of those statements are sort of somewhat meaningless, because, one, as Carol said, this isn’t really a bottom-up case. There was so much predication of what was happening at the top. And, for the same reason, this idea that you investigate crimes and not people, well fine, there was predication of the crime. And as Carol laid out, there was sufficient predication, and you just had people saying, we’re just not going to look at it.
I do think, to your point, Nicolle, it is a fool’s errand to try and worry about public perception as long as you’re doing the right thing. You know, you’re not — there’s a certain percentage of the population you’re not going to win over. So just depoliticize the department by not taking into consideration politics. For the same reason, I don’t think Merrick Garland should be thinking before you charge a former President, “Gee, what will the people think about it?”
And just to take an example, do you not charge people in the 1950s for murdering or assaulting members of the black population because you’re worried about what the Ku Klux Klan is going to think in certain parts of the world? I mean, what the public is going to think about a prosecution is not the standard for going forward if you are treating likes alike. And I think that it was so wrong-headed. And just, of another example, I worked in the Muller investigation. Volume two was all about the former President obstructing justice. But I knew, in my heart, there was no way the Department of Justice was going to go back and look at that, on the theory of, sort of, let bygones be bygones. When the whole idea of somebody who was the President obstructing a Special Counsel almost by definition needs to be vindicated, because otherwise, why ever have a Special Counsel if you’re never going to vindicate that crime? So I just think it was really not a wise decision by DOJ leadership, and I really don’t blame here the FBI, because they report into the Department of Justice. They’re part of the Department of Justice, and at the end of the day, the buck really does stop with Merrick Garland, who is the person who makes the ultimate decisions about what happened here, or as Carol so cogently set forth, what did not happen here.