The public statement by the former special attorney known to remain silent was a sign of how far Trump, Attorney General William Barr, and Trump’s Republican allies in Congress have attempted to attack and undermine the two-year investigation into Russian election interference. .
In recent months, Barr has lobbied to ease Stone’s now-commuted sentence and is trying to drop Flynn’s indictment, while the Trump administration has declassified a series of documents that Republicans and the Trump campaign have used to attack the Origins of Russia’s investigation: – and Trump’s alleged opponent in 2020, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Mueller’s opinion piece directly refuted the White House announcement that Trump would commute Stone’s sentence. The White House called Mueller’s work “unsubstantiated investigation” and “witch hunt,” and Stone’s prosecution “the product of recklessness due to frustration and malice” as “excessively jealous prosecutors.”
Mueller wrote that prosecutors acted “with the highest integrity. Claims to the contrary are false.” He reiterated that Stone was convicted of obstruction, lying to Congress and tampering with witnesses, and that Russian efforts to interfere with elections to aid the Trump campaign deserved an investigation.
A representative for Mueller declined to comment.
During the two-year investigation, Mueller’s team was known for his silence, speaking only through his final report and court filings against several members of the Trump team, including Stone and Flynn. But in recent months as attacks on the investigation have expanded, members of the special counsel team have begun to talk more, especially about Stone, who still insists that he was wrongfully convicted.
But Mueller’s decision to publish an opinion piece went one step further.
Several people familiar with Mueller have emphasized the former FBI director’s unwillingness to break ranks of the Justice Department and his strict approach to staying out of the political arena.
But Barr has duped almost all the publicly known prosecutions that Mueller left for the department to end and launched his own review of the FBI’s job in the investigation, while Trump has continually attacked the investigation as illegitimate, alleging that he tried to undermine his electoral victory. .
Mueller’s investigation did not establish a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia. But she uncovered evidence that people inside and associated with the Trump campaign welcomed and encouraged Russian activity that they believed could help their candidate win.
He also documented extensive contacts between Russians and Trump campaign officials and multiple Trump attempts to obstruct Russia’s investigation.
Prosecutors follow Mueller’s example
Until recently, prosecutors working in the special counsel’s office stayed in line with the silence of a boss they revere. Many had their own reasons for not speaking, according to half a dozen lawyers in Washington, DC, familiar with their thinking. Some still work for the Department of Justice, but many left the special attorney’s office to fill lucrative positions at private law firms.
Some, until recent weeks, believed that moving forward to defend their work would not make a difference in public discourse because the 448-page report was accessible to the public. Some were comforted to believe that Mueller’s report would withstand scrutiny over time and the investigation will finally be on the right side of the story.
Some cautiously tested the waters, but still declined to discuss the Mueller investigation.
Andrew Goldstein, for example, who worked on both Russia’s and Trump’s obstruction investigations for Mueller, signed his name on a list of former New York Southern District prosecutors who condemned Barr’s dismissal of the head of that office, Geoffrey. Berman. “The actions of the President and the Attorney General are an attack on the concept that investigations must be carried out in a non-partisan manner,” said his open letter.
In late June, Zelinsky, a Baltimore-based prosecutor who still works for the Justice Department, testified about Barr’s politicization of the department in handling Stone’s sentence.
“The Justice Department told me that my testimony today should comply with all four corners of the report of the Office of the Special Adviser,” Zelinsky told the House Judiciary Committee. Speaking about the Stone case after Mueller closed his office, “I was told that there was strong political pressure from the highest levels of the Justice Department to interrupt Roger Stone.”
After Stone’s commutation on Friday, Zelinsky released a statement through his attorney that he said “supports his testimony and the results of Special Adviser Mueller’s investigation.”
Before Zelinsky’s testimony, Democrats on Capitol Hill initially contacted another Stone prosecutor, Jonathan Kravis, evaluating his willingness to testify.
“I am convinced that the department’s conduct in the Stone and Flynn cases will cause lasting damage to the institution,” Kravis wrote in the Post.
Testimony could be on the horizon
Now Mueller himself could be asked to return to Capitol Hill to testify, after his quiet appearance last year before the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees.
Senate Judiciary President Lindsey Graham said Saturday that he would call Mueller to testify.
Graham is leading one of two Republican Senate committee investigations into the origins of Mueller’s investigation and the FBI’s Russia investigation that is accelerating a long-standing effort among Republicans in Congress to question the validity of the work of the special lawyer.
Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have said they also want to hear from Mueller. At a committee meeting last month where Graham received extensive subpoena clearance for his investigation, Democrats said the committee should call Mueller to testify. “I think this side would like to have him here,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the panel.
Graham said he agreed, though he suggested that someone like Weissmann might be better to testify.
If a hearing is held, Democrats on the committee would like to hear from Mueller’s top deputies and prosecutors about the Stone and Flynn cases, as well as Mueller himself, according to a source familiar with the matter.
CNN’s Sara Murray and Evan Pérez contributed to this report.