Robert Mueller and his wife Ann Cabell Standish leave Easter services in Washington in April. Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP
The justice departments Office of Legal Counsel had said
a sitting president could not be indicted. According to Wolff, Muellers team drew up both the three-count indictment of Trump and a draft memorandum of law opposing an anticipated motion to dismiss.
448-page redacted final report the special counsel briefly noted that his office had concluded it would accept previous justice department guidance that it did not have the power to prosecute a sitting president.
The draft memorandum quoted by Wolff argues that nowhere does the law say the president cannot be indicted and nowhere is the president accorded a different status under the law than other federal officials, all of whom can be indicted, convicted and impeached.
The document says: The Impeachment Judgment Clause, which applies equally to all civil officers including the president takes for granted that an officer may be subject to indictment and prosecution before impeachment. If it did not, the clause would be creating, for civil officers, precisely the immunity the Framers rejected.
The memorandum rejected the argument that the burden of a criminal process on the president would interfere with his ability to carry out his duties.
Of Muellers thinking, Wolff writes that as a former FBI director, he had not risen to the highest levels of the federal government by misconstruing the limits of bureaucratic power, and had therefore continually weighed the odds with his staff about whether the president would fire them. Thus, Wolff writes, the very existence of the special counsels investigation had in a sense become the paramount issue of the investigation itself.
According to Wolff, a memo circulated internally asked: Can President Trump order [then attorney general Jeff] Sessions to withdraw the special counsel regulations (and fire him if he doesnt)?
The short answer is yes.
Muellers team also believed Trump could have fired Mueller directly, Wolff says, arguing that the special counsel regulations are unconstitutional insofar as they limit his ability to fire the special counsel.
claimed to have had the right to fire Mueller, but he has also denied Don McGahns testimony to Mueller that he was ordered to do so. Trump is now seeking to stop the former White House counsel testifying to Congress.
In another memo quoted by Wolff, Muellers staff wondered what would happen to the special counsels office, staff, records, pending investigations and grand juries reviewing evidence if Mueller was fired.
To preserve their work, Wolff writes, they decided to share grand jury materials with fellow prosecutors. That process led, for example, to the
investigation into Cohen being handed to the southern district of New York.
In the end, Wolff writes, 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.
Michael Wolff at his home in New York City, speaking to the Guardian last year. Photograph: Ali Smith/The Guardian
Robert Mueller, the stoic marine, had revealed himself over the course of the nearly two-year investigation to his colleagues and staff to be quite a Hamlet figure. Or, less dramatically, a cautious and indecisive bureaucrat.
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.
Perhaps surprisingly given his fate after Fire and Fury, Bannon is quoted extensively in Siege. His view of Muellers two year investigation into claims of collusion and obstruction of justice: Never send a marine to do a hit mans job.
Wolffs conclusion is a sobering one.
In a way, he writes, Robert Mueller had come to accept the dialectical premise of
Donald Trump that Trump is Trump.
Bob Mueller threw up his hands. Surprisingly, he found himself in agreement with the greater White House: Donald Trump was the president, and, for better or for worse, what you saw was what you got and what the country voted for.