A senior member of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative team said he was in “awe” of former acting Attorney General Sally Yates the day she was fired for refusing to defend President Trump’s controversial travel ban, according to emails obtained by a conservative watchdog group.
Andrew Weissmann, a veteran Justice Department prosecutor who is one of Mueller’s top lieutenants on the special counsel probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, sent a Jan. 30 email to Yates that appeared to laud her for standing up to Trump.
Trump fired Yates that same day and selected Dana Boente, a U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, to replace her until current Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsOvernight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability Stanford professors ask DOJ to stop looking for Chinese spies at universities in US Overnight Energy & Environment — Democrats detail clean electricity program MORE could be confirmed.
On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that a third version of the controversial travel ban could be fully reinstated after several court challenges.
The Judicial Watch emails are likely to give new political ammunition to conservatives, who have argued that the special counsel has been hopelessly compromised by Democratic prosecutors. Weissmann in particular has donated thousands of dollars to Democrats over the years.
“This is an astonishing and disturbing find. Andrew Weissman, a key prosecutor on Robert Mueller’s team, praised Obama DOJ holdover Sally Yates after she lawlessly thwarted President Trump,” said Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton. “How much more evidence do we need that the Mueller operation has been irredeemably compromised by anti-Trump partisans? Shut it down.”
A spokesperson for the special counsel declined to comment.
While President Trump has largely held his fire on Mueller, conservatives have been working furiously to discredit his efforts, drawing attention to Mueller’s relationship with fired former FBI Director James Comey and his hiring of Democrats.
Many on the right are also raising alarms that the investigation is a fishing expedition that has extended beyond its mandate.
Still, Mueller has a sterling reputation in Washington and GOP leaders on Capitol Hill have argued that he should have the space he needs to conduct his investigation without political pressure.
Weissmann has been a frequent target of the right and his role at the special counsel is likely to come under new scrutiny given the probe’s recent turns.
The veteran Justice Department lawyer has a reputation for working with “converting defendants into collaborators,” according to The New York Times.
Last week, Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russians and said he will be a cooperating witness for the broader investigation.
George Papadopoulos, a former low-level adviser to the Trump campaign, has similarly pleaded guilty to lying to federal prosecutors and is also working with the special counsel.