Former special counsel Robert Mueller's decision not to charge President Trump with obstruction of justice was an “unconscionable” lapse that “let Trump get away with lying,” Norm Eisen, former special counsel for the House Judiciary Committee, said in a Wednesday interview on the Yahoo News podcast “Skullduggery.”
Eisen’s sharp comments about Mueller, for whom he said he has always had great respect, came during a discussion about his new book “A Case for the American People: The United States v. Donald J. Trump,” an intimate account of the impeachment battle. Eisen reveals in the book that he drafted 10 articles of impeachment against President Trump — some of which stemmed directly from Mueller’s report — even before the House learned about the Ukraine scandal that ultimately became the basis for impeachment.
But Eisen reserved some of his strongest criticism for Mueller, who he believes was ill-equipped to deal with a president as reckless as Trump.
“He failed because he brought a 19th-century mentality, a 19th-century ethics and honor, to a 21st-century problem,” Eisen said. “It’s like trying to put out a burning building with a water pistol. His report just did not, was not fit for the purpose. It did not address the crisis represented by a President Trump who is attacking all the fundamentals of our rule of law, constitutional republic system.”
Released in April 2019, Mueller’s report documented multiple contacts between Russian agents and Trump's associates as well as efforts by the president to shut down the Russia investigation. But Mueller did not charge the president or his allies with conspiring with the Russians or accuse Trump of obstruction of justice.
Eisen scoffed at Mueller’s contention that it would have been unfair to charge the president with obstruction of justice.
“It wouldn’t be fair? It was much more unfair not to,” Eisen said. “He hints at the need for impeachment. He should have been bold like [former special counsel Kenneth] Starr and said, ‘In my view, I recommend impeachment.’ He should have released the report or made a public statement immediately. He wrote a private letter to the attorney general and the attorney general distorted his findings. He said, ‘Oh, please release my summaries.’ But Barr’s as bad as Trump in abusing the system. These are 21st-century abusers. They know how to spin and manipulate.”
Eisen pointed to the president’s ally Roger Stone, whom Mueller indicted on one count of obstruction, five counts of false statements and one count of witness tampering. Stone was convicted and sentenced in February to 40 months in prison. Trump commuted that sentence earlier this month. The president has long denied knowledge of Stone’s behind-the-scenes attempted collaboration with WikiLeaks and told Mueller he didn't recall talking to Stone about the subject.
Eisen said he believes it is simply not credible that the president would not recall conversations with Stone and that Mueller should have charged Trump. He said the consequences of Mueller’s choice have been dire.
“Bob didn’t even confront Trump, he didn’t force Trump to testify,” Eisen said. “He let Trump get away with lying and pretending he doesn't remember. ... Those honorable decisions and leaving it to others to decide, leaving it to Congress to after the presidency, letting Barr manipulate, completely neutered his investigation, and as I explain, we never recovered from that and that is a tragedy.”
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