Below is my column in Hill on allegations by former Deputy Special Envoy Andrew Weissmann that President Donald Trump’s recent pardons heightened a possible obstruction of justice against him. We previously discussed how Weissmann has proven critics correct in their description of his hostility and inclination towards Trump. For his part, and his book and recent testimony, reiterate the view of an abusive prosecutor, particularly in his unbound view of disability. Indeed, Weissmann appears to be keen that Trump is best to forgive himself. He calls on prosecutors to set up large juries to persecute Trump and others in a relentless campaign based on unfounded legal theories.
Here is the column:
In the pardon debate, some Democrats seem to be advocating it Donald Trump and against yourself. Look at Andrew Weissmann. Following the recent pardons, he stated that Trump had effectively proven the case of an obstructionist charge against himself and urged prosecutors to put those who were pardoned on large juries under threat of later perjury charges. It was unfounded and doubtful. It was also Vintage Weissmann, who took action against himself as someone who shows bias towards Trump, who overwhelms all other considerations.
If Trump wants a reason to forgive himself, he can’t look any further than Weissmann, who has been appointed top advisor to special adviser Robert Mueller. Trump and numerous Republicans denounced him as a donor to Barack Obama, and he is said to have attended the 2016 election night party for Hilliary Clinton. My objection was not about his affiliation, but about his story, which included extreme interpretations that were ultimately rejected by the courts. Weissmann was responsible for over-extending a disability provision in a jury instruction that caused the Supreme Court to overturn the Arthur Andersen conviction in 2005.
Weissmann is now an MSNBC analyst teaching at a New York University. After leaving the Office of the Special Representative, he fulfilled every report from someone with uncontrolled bias against Trump, including his book attacking prosecutors for refusing to adopt his extreme views. Weissmann called on prosecutors to refuse to assist John Durham in his investigation and called on Stone in a grand jury after Roger Stone was pardoned.
Even convinced critics of Trump such as the former prosecutor Randall Eliason described Weissmann’s book as a “betrayal of Müller”, who “ruined” his colleagues and “threw them under a bus because they did not agree with him”. He added that Weissmanns “Dishing can sell a lot of books” but he “himself violated the norms of how prosecutors should behave”.
After leaving the Special Counsel’s office, Weissmann seemed intent on proving critics right by saying he was a singularly poor choice for Müller to act as his deputy. Weissmann is now openly expressing the extreme interpretations that have led many of us to criticize his tenure in the Justice Ministry. Now Weissmann is expressing the kind of extreme interpretations that have led many of us to criticize his tenure in the Justice Department. His most recent column is illustrative. Many of us sparked Trump’s recent pardons, ranging from corrupt former members of Congress to Jared Kushner’s father. Weissmann, however, insists that the pardon of any person connected to the special commissioner’s investigation is evidence of disability.
However, these individuals were not pardoned to prevent them from testifying or cooperating with prosecutors in the Michael Flynn case, nor were they pardoned before they were tried and convicted. For example, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was in jail before he was released on coronavirus concerns. Former election worker George Papadopoulos and lawyer Alex Van Der Zwaan were serving prison terms. Flynn was convicted and should have been convicted years earlier, if not for a series of bizarre acts by the federal judge who tried his case.
Trump did not apologize to his attorney Michael Cohen when Cohen sought his pardon. Instead, Cohen worked with Muller, testified against Trump and was sent to jail. This is a strange pattern for obstacles. Wait for everyone to testify and most to be taken to jail before being pardoned. It did not seem to have been an obstacle that Bill Clinton in particular pardoned his own friend and business partner in the Whitewater scandal.
Weissmann insists that if Trump is not in office, there is no barrier to disability charges, and that all of these numbers appear before large juries. The problem is the same that Weissmann faced because of his disastrous role in the persecution of Andersen. Weissmann just misunderstood criminal disability. In fact, he has possibly the longest learning curve in legal history on the subject. In fact, he has possibly the longest learning curve in legal history on the matter. Not even a unanimous rejection of his views by the Supreme Court on the Andersen case appears to register with him, especially when the law stands in the way of Trump’s prosecution.
I testified in the impeachment hearing about the shortcomings of this disability theory. Mueller himself found no reason for a handicap. He listed the alleged obstacles discussed in the media but failed to find the critical element of intent to support the prosecution. This was also the point that former Attorney General William Barr wanted to raise in his press conference to wrap up the Special Representative’s investigation. Despite differing perceptions of disability, there was no doubt that prosecution would be required. Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Müller and widely praised by Democrats for his independence, also said under oath last year that there was no sign of disability.
None of this matters to Weissmann, who poses as the legal Captain Ahab, so blinded with anger that he would devastate the criminal code to catch his white whale. The same kind of anger Trump could use for a controversial pardon for himself. I think a president can forgive himself, but he shouldn’t. Even if anyone had been willing to question this, the constitution is silent about such a restriction on the power of pardon. That is the same reason I believe a President in office can be indicted. Even though I am constitutional, I still view self-forgiveness as an abuse of power.
There are solid arguments on both sides of this decades-long debate. In my view, the main obstacle is political rather than constitutional, but Weissmann and others are now working to remove that barrier. These critics call for the persecution of Trump and his staff with the same blind rage as Captain Ahab, who said, “From the heart of Hell, I poke you. For the sake of hatred, I spit out my last breath for you. You damn whale. “Your longstanding anger could be the long-awaited reason for the president.
Jonathan Turley is Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can find his updates online at JonathanTurley.