Like the rest of the network broadcasts Monday morning, NBC’s Today show seized on a report in the New York Times claiming President Trump has not paid income taxes in years and has hundreds of millions of dollars in debt. Without actually seeing the documents or knowing the source for the Times story, NBC accepted it as gospel and even launched into a wild conspiracy theory that Trump must be in debt to Russia.
“Years of the President’s tax returns finally made public, revealing he paid almost nothing in federal income taxes over more than a decade,” co-host Savannah Guthrie gleefully proclaimed at the top of the show. She then ominously warned: “This morning, what the records reveal about Trump’s massive business loses and the enormous bill about to come due.”
Minutes later, senior business correspondent Stephanie Ruhle joined the program to offer baseless speculation and suggest the President was a threat to national security:
But as we get this peek into his business, losing hundreds of millions of dollars, it begs the question, does he run a strong business? And the fact that he personally owes hundreds of millions of dollars in the next three years. That would be while he’s sitting in office, if he’s reelected again. Can he truly put country first when you’ve got debts that big? And we still don’t know who he owes that money to.
During an interview with self-avowed “angry Democrat” and anti-Trump Mueller team prosecutor Andrew Weissmann in the 8:30 a.m. ET half hour, Guthrie teed him up to elaborate on the implication made by Ruhle: “You are a prosecutor, you are somebody who investigated the President and some of these issues for many, many years. What jumps out to you?”
Without evidence, Weissmann hurled accusations of Trump being financially compromised by Russia:
What jumps out to me, Savannah, is a 2014 statement from Eric Trump, where Eric Trump said the Trump Organization does not rely on American banks because they have plenty of funding from Russia. So when I look at the New York Times reporting and I see that there are hundreds of millions of dollars in loans that are coming due that the President has personally guaranteed, my question is, who does he owe that money to? Is there leverage that those people have, hundreds and millions of dollars of leverage, on the President?
Rather than demand her partisan guest back up such an incendiary claim, Guthrie instead helped sell his new book, which whines that Special Counsel Robert Mueller didn’t go after the President hard enough:
You know, that really tees up the issue. Because this book, you really highlight what the Special Counsel’s office was doing, what it did, what it didn’t do. And the reader comes away with the impression that you feel like the Special Counsel’s office kind of dropped the ball and didn’t go as far as it could have or should have.
In part, Weissmann lamented: “...in my view, there are three things that we did not look at that we really should have looked at. And principally, given yesterday’s news, is we did not do a full financial investigation relating to the President.”
For the leftist media, there is no allegation or conspiracy theory involving Trump that goes too far. If one narrative is proven false, reporters just create another, hoping something will stick.
Here is a full transcript of Guthrie’s September 28 interview with Weissmann:
8:34 AM ET
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: We’re back, 8:34, with an inside look at an investigation that has been in the spotlight for much of the Trump presidency – Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. At the heart of Mueller’s team was a prosecutor named Andrew Weissmann, someone who had been with the Department of Justice for years, prosecuting Enron executives, among other things, top mafia figures as well. Well, now he’s out with a new book, it’s called Where Law Ends, and it goes behind the scenes on the key decisions and strategies in the case and he’s pulling no punches on where he thinks things went wrong in the investigation.
Mr. Weissmann joins us now, his first live televison interview. Can I start, Andrew, with this latest news? Because the President’s tax returns have been revealed by the New York Times, several years of them. And a layperson like me looks at them and sees one thing. You are a prosecutor, you are somebody who investigated the President and some of these issues for many, many years. What jumps out to you?
ANDREW WEISSMANN: What jumps out to me, Savannah, is a 2014 statement from Eric Trump, where Eric Trump said the Trump Organization does not rely on American banks because they have plenty of funding from Russia. So when I look at the New York Times reporting and I see that there are hundreds of millions of dollars in loans that are coming due that the President has personally guaranteed, my question is, who does he owe that money to? Is there leverage that those people have, hundreds and millions of dollars of leverage, on the President?
The other thing that jumps out to me is that, with respect to the Miss Universe pageant in 2013, The Times reporting has the President earning a couple million dollars, whereas the Russian oligarch who funded the Miss Universe pageant apparently made no money. So both of those are of concern to me. And relating it to the Special Counsel investigation, those are things that we did not look at in the Special Counsel investigation. .
GUTHRIE: You know, that really tees up the issue. Because this book, you really highlight what
the Special Counsel’s office was doing, what it did, what it didn’t do. And the reader comes away with the impression that you feel like the Special Counsel’s office kind of dropped the ball and didn’t go as far as it could have or should have.
WEISSMANN: There’s a lot that the Special Counsel investigation did right. There were many, many people who were charged and convicted. And nothing can take that away. Those are convictions, those are cases that were strongly put together. But in my view, there are three things that we did not look at that we really should have looked at. And principally, given yesterday’s news, is we did not do a full financial investigation relating to the President.
GUTHRIE: And why not?
WEISSMANN: So I recount in the book an event that happened when we had subpoenaed Deutsche Bank early on in our investigation. And the White House got wind of that. And if you remember, the President had said it is a red line to investigate anything in dealing with his finances. And we were asked by the White House what we were doing with Deutsche Bank and a decision was made by the Special Counsel that we would at that time not cross that line.
And one of the things I think it’s important for your viewers to know is that at that point we were investigating a president who had the ability to pull the plug on our investigation. That is very unusual. You spoke with Enron and organized crime figures, and while those can be hard cases to prosecute, they don’t have the ability to fire the prosecutor. But here the President did have that ability. And the decision was made early on not to cross that line. My issue with the decision is not so much what we did early on but as our investigation came to fruition and we were proving what Russia did, we were convicting people like Rick Gates, Paul Manafort. That decision was not revisited. And so the open questions that you began this interview with, in terms of the President’s finances, were never answered by the Special Counsel’s office.
GUTHRIE: And let’s talk about the most famous conclusion or nonconclusion of the report, which has to do with obstruction of justice, whether the President took actions that interfered with the investigation you were trying to conduct. The Mueller Report does not reach a legal conclusion on that issue but presents a series of facts. In your mind, was it a mistake for that report not to come to a conclusion about whether the President obstructed and what do you think that conclusion should have been?
WEISSMANN: I do think it was a mistake not to come to a conclusion. I think that the Special Counsel rules that we operated under had us writing a report that was supposed to be a private report to the Attorney General. And that was one that asked us to give a recommendation and to make factual findings about what had happened. And by not making a conclusion, that left the field open for the Attorney General – Attorney General Barr to make his own private assessment that there was no obstruction, without dealing with any of the very, very damning facts. And to answer your question about what did I personally think, I thought there was no question that the facts that we laid out would lead any reasonable prosecutor to conclude that the President had obstructed our investigation in numerous ways.
GUTHRIE: You worked for Bob Mueller for many, many years, he’s a well-known, well-regarded figure in Washington with a lot of experience. But given some of what you’re saying in the book, do you find fault with his leadership of the Special Counsel’s Office? And did you ever ask – question whether he had the ability and competence to lead this investigation?
WEISSMANN: So I never asked the question whether he had the competence to lead the investigation because he clearly did. All of the major decisions that the team that I led made were run by him, and he made those decisions. But in writing this book, what I was trying to do was be as transparent and candid with the American public about what I thought we did right and what I thought we did wrong. And try and lay out some things that can be done differently in the future. This book is really written for people trying to figure out not just what happened but what are the lessons learned that we can take away from this as we go forward.
GUTHRIE: Well, for something that certainly consumed a lot of attention, there was so much intrigue about what was happening behind those closed doors, Andrew Weissmann, this book answers some of those questions. Thank you very much. I should mention, by the way, we did reach out to Robert Mueller, as well as the White House, for comment on the book, but have not heard back. You can find more on the book, Where Law Ends, on today.com/shop.