Justice Department tells court 'Alternative Mueller Report' found and may soon be released
T he so-called "Alternative Mueller Report” mentioned in a book by Andrew Weissmann, a top prosecutor for special counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation, has been found, according to the Department of Justice.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams of the Southern District of New York said in a Thursday evening filing in federal court that the Justice Department “has located and begun processing this record and intends to release all non-exempt portions … once processing is complete.”
The Justice Department was responding to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the New York Times in July seeking access to a report allegedly compiled by Weissmann, who publicly battled with Mueller after the special counsel's report “did not establish” any conspiracy or coordination between members of former President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign and the Kremlin.
Weissmann claimed in his book Where the Law Ends that the Mueller investigation had faced restrictions that limited the final report that was released.
“Only some of these limitations made it into the final report, as Team M [Manafort] and Team R [Russia] did not have the pen — that is, the final say. To remedy this, at least for posterity, I had all the members of Team M write up an internal report memorializing everything we found, our conclusions, and the limitations on the investigation, and provided it to the other team leaders as well as had it maintained in our files," he wrote in the book published in the fall of 2020.
The New York Times referenced that passage, telling the court this summer that it “sought a copy of the internal report done by Mr. Weissman’s team [the ‘Alternative Mueller Report’] referenced in Weissman’s book” and called it “a document of immense public interest” in claiming that “Weissman’s acknowledgment of the existence of the Alternative Mueller Report suggests that there was important facts or findings omitted from the original version.”
The lawsuit by The New York Times described the Mueller report as a “bombshell.”
Mueller’s investigation concluded in 2019 that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election in a “sweeping and systematic fashion,” and Mueller’s team “identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump Campaign" despite not establishing criminal conspiracy.
The lawsuit argues Mueller “expressly declined to decide whether those contacts could be regarded as collusion.” But Mueller’s report specifically noted “collusion is largely synonymous with conspiracy as that crime is set forth in the general federal conspiracy statute” and said his investigation concluded it “did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
The U.S. attorney told the court on Thursday that the Justice Department “estimates that primary processing” of the report referenced by Weissmann and sought by The New York Times “will be complete by the end of January 2022” and that the department would then “send the record to several other DOJ components for consultation.”
Weissmann’s book misled about how then-Attorney General William Barr characterized the conspiracy section of Mueller’s report, selectively quoting Barr’s letter while himself failing to quote the report’s specific relevant conclusions related to coordination and conspiracy — something Barr did.
DOJ records released last year also show that Weissmann said he accidentally wiped the data from his government-issued phones two separate times. Notes from March 2018 noted he “entered password too many times and wiped his phone,” and notes in September 2018 indicated that he “accidentally wiped cell phone — data lost.”
Weissmann, himself a former DOJ official, denied mishandling his government-issued phones.
Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin told Attorney General Merrick Garland this summer that they were “asking the Justice Department for more information and records” about the incident.
DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s December 2019 report found that the Trump-Russia investigation was filled with serious missteps and concealed exculpatory information from the FISA court, criticizing the Justice Department and the FBI for at least 17 “significant errors and omissions” related to the FISA warrants against Trump campaign associate Carter Page and for the bureau's “central and essential” reliance on British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s discredited dossier. Horowitz said FBI interviews with Steele's main source “raised significant questions about the reliability of the Steele election reporting."
Barr made now-former U.S. Attorney John Durham a special counsel last year to continue investigating the origins and the conduct of the Trump-Russia investigation. Igor Danchenko, who undermined the dossier’s collusion claims, was recently charged with lying to the bureau. He has pleaded not guilty.
Ex-FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith admitted in August 2020 that he falsified a document during the bureau’s efforts to renew FISA surveillance authority against Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to Trump's 2016 campaign. Clinesmith was sentenced to probation in January.
Weissmann, who previously would often weigh in on hot-button issues through his Twitter account, has not sent a tweet since July. He was fairly active on the platform and made frequent appearances on MSNBC to talk about matters relating to Trump in the months prior to him going dark. It was reported in August that Weissmann recently left Jenner & Block, a law firm he rejoined last year , to go "in-house."
Weissmann told the Atlantic last year that Mueller “absolutely” let people down.
Weissmann’s book trashed two major Mueller decisions. One is Mueller choosing not to subpoena Trump to testify, and the other is Mueller's report not reaching a decision on whether Trump obstructed justice.
Mueller’s April 2019 report noted that “we determined not to apply an approach that could potentially result in a judgment that the President committed crimes,” but it laid out 10 possible instances of obstruction by Trump. Mueller’s report said that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
Barr said he and then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded that Trump had not obstructed justice.
A federal appeals court separately ruled this week that the Justice Department must release some of the redacted parts of Mueller’s report which apparently discussed individuals who were investigated by Mueller but not charged.
Washington Examiner Videos