Former special counsel Robert Mueller was intimated out of subpoenaing Donald Trump and declaring the president obstructed justice in the investigation of Russian election interference, a new insider book claims.
One of Mr Mueller's top prosecutors, Andrew Weissmann, said that the special counsel's office let the American people down, could have done more to fully investigate alleged crimes, and should have resisted the president's efforts to undermine the investigation.
In an interview with The Atlantic to promote the release of Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation, Mr Weissman said Mr Muller's integrity and sense of fairness allowed the team to be intimidated, while his trust in attorney general William Barr led him to omit any legal recommendation.
“There are a lot of things we did well, and a lot of things we could have done better, to be diplomatic about it,” Mr Weissman said in the interview.
That includes not subpoenaing Donald Trump Jr in relation to the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016, or subpoenaing the president to answer questions in person and under oath.
Mr Weissman told Atlantic writer George Packer that the real reason for not compelling the president to be interviewed was Mr Mueller's aversion to an explosive confrontation with the White House.
"Repeatedly during our twenty-two months in operation,” Mr Weissmann writes in the book, “we would reach some critical juncture in our investigation only to have (lawyer Aaron Zebley) say that we could not take a particular action because it risked aggravating the president beyond some undefined breaking point.”
Mr Weissmann believes that the investigation wasn't aggressive enough and failed to be conclusive as to whether Mr Trump obstructed justice.
"[Muller was] making his own, freelance judgments about what was appropriate and not delivering on what he was tasked with doing,” he said.
When making his arguments to the special council's office, Mr Weissmann said it was like a "transparent shell game", and by abdicating the role of prosecutor, Mr Muller cleared the way for Mr Barr to disfigure the report into an exoneration.
“When there is insufficient proof of a crime, in volume one, we say it. But when there is sufficient proof, with obstruction, we don’t say it. Who is going to be fooled by that? It’s so obvious,” he said.