Speed Reads

Kid gloves

Mueller didn't investigate Trump's finances or question Ivanka Trump due to blowback fears, prosecutor recounts

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian election interference and President Trump's 2016 campaign treated Trump's family and personal finances with kid gloves, mostly out of concern that Trump would shut down the investigation, former federal prosecutor Andrew Weissmann writes in a new book, Where Law Ends.

At one critical juncture in 2017, the Mueller team issued a subpoena to Deutsch Bank for records about Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's Ukraine income, and even though the subpoenas were secret, the White House found out and demanded to know if Mueller was seeking financial information on Trump, Weissmann recounts, according to The New York Times.

Mueller authorized his cautious deputy, Aaron Zebley, to assure the White House they had not subpoenaed Trump's financial records, and "at that point, any financial investigation of Trump was put on hold," Weissmann writes. "That is, we backed down — the issue was simply too incendiary; the risk, too severe." He points to other dropped leads, like "payments linked to a Russian oligarch" turning up in the same account from which Trump paid two purported paramours, and Trump's active efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

Weissmann also reveals that even though Ivanka Trump spoke with a Russian delegation that met in Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr. and other campaign officials about handing over Russian dirt on Hillary Clinton, Mueller's investigators did not try to question her because they "feared that hauling her in for an interview would play badly to the already antagonistic right-wing press — look how they're roughing up the president's daughter — and risk enraging Trump."

Those fears might have been justified early on in the investigation, before they got up and running, Weissmann told the Times, but he and other team leaders believed they should have gotten more aggressive later on. "We would have subpoenaed the president after he refused our accommodations, even if that risked us being fired," he wrote. "It just didn't sit right. We were left feeling like we had let down the American public, who were counting on us to give it our all."