New Michael Wolff book says Mueller drafted Trump obstruction indictment; special counsel denies
In a new book, author Michael Wolff says that special counsel Robert Mueller drew up a three-count obstruction of justice indictment against President Donald Trump before deciding to abandon it, the Guardian reported Tuesday.
The Guardian said it obtained a copy of the book, "Siege: Trump Under Fire," which has a June 4 release date. The paper also reported that it had reviewed the documents on which Wolff bases his claim that Mueller's team drafted the indictment.
A spokesman for the special counsel's office denied any indictment had been drafted. “The documents that you've described do not exist," Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller, told NBC News. Carr also gave the same denial to the Guardian.
NBC News has not obtained a copy of the book or reviewed the documents supporting Wolff's claim. "Siege" is the sequel to Wolff's best-selling "Fire and Fury," which was published in 2018 and covered the first year of Trump's presidency. The Guardian didn't say whether it had authenticated the documents or if it attempted to do so.
In an author's note, Wolff writes that his findings on the Mueller investigation are "based on internal documents given to me by sources close to the Office of the Special Counsel," according to the Guardian.
Wolff says that Mueller drafted the indictment under the title, "United States of America against Donald J Trump, Defendant." He alleges in the book that the document sat on Mueller’s desk for almost a year, the paper reported.
Eventually, Wolff wrote, Mueller concluded that "the truth of the matter was straightforward: that while the president had the support of the majority party, he had the winning hand," the Guardian said. The paper reported: "Caught, Wolff says, between wanting to use his full authority and worrying that he had no authority, Mueller went against the will of many of his staff when he chose not to attempt to force Trump to be interviewed in person. Ultimately, he also concluded he could not move to prosecute a sitting president."
The Guardian says the first count charged the president with corruptly — or by threats of force or threatening communication — influencing, obstructing or impeding a pending proceeding before a department or agency of the United States. The second count charged Trump with tampering with a witness, victim or informant. The third count charged the president with retaliating against a witness, victim or informant.
Wolff says that there were extensive deliberations by Mueller's team over whether to charge the president and whether Trump had the power to fire him or then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversaw the special counsel probe, the paper reported.
In addition to the indictment, the paper reported that Wolff also obtained a draft memorandum of law prepared by Mueller's team opposing an expected motion to dismiss the indictment. The paper reported that the memo obtained by Wolff argues that the law does not say a president cannot be indicted and that the president is no different than other federal officials, all of whom can be indicted, convicted and impeached.
In his 448-page report, Mueller identified 10 episodes that could be considered potential obstruction of justice. He reached no conclusion about whether Trump had obstructed justice, but he did cite the long-standing opinion from the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel that says a sitting president cannot be indicted. Mueller said that his team "accepted OLC's legal conclusion for the purpose of exercising prosecutorial jurisdiction."
Barr, in a March letter to Congress sent before the redacted report was made public in April, said that he had decided that Trump did not obstruct the probe. Barr said that they didn't amount to illegal activity by the president and that he disagreed with some of Mueller's legal theories on whether those episodes amounted to obstruction "as a matter of law."
Wolff noted that the special counsel probe spawned more than a dozen other investigations that Mueller referred to various prosecutors and resulted in plea deals from former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, Trump ally David Pecker, the head of American Media and Trump Organization official Allen Weisselberg, the paper reported.
"The Jews always flip," Wolff claimed Trump said about the plea deals, the paper reported.