Former Watergate Prosecutor On Mueller Report
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Day by day, hour by hour, expectation grew all week that special counsel Robert Mueller was ready to submit his report to the Justice Department. Then, 5:00 last night - wham - it hit. But we still don't know what's in it. Jill Wine-Banks is a former assistant Watergate prosecutor who joins us now. Thanks very much for being with us.
JILL WINE-BANKS: Good morning.
SIMON: If I might put it this way, what do you believe Mr. Mueller's must-delivers are, in your judgment?
WINE-BANKS: I think that he needs to deliver a full rendition of the information that he gathered and his conclusions from those. We need to know whether he decided not to indict because of the Office of Legal Counsel opinion that says he can't or whether he decided not to indict because there was not sufficient evidence for a beyond-a-reasonable-doubt conviction. And I think that's something that's important.
I think the facts may go well beyond Russia. That was his jurisdiction. He was looking at the interference in the election. He certainly proved that the Russians interfered. And Congress must take action on that to make sure that they don't do it again and that our elections remain safe because it's the bulwark of democracy to be able to have free and fair and honest elections.
But there could be a number of pending investigations. Just because Robert Mueller and his limited area of investigation is over does not mean that the president shouldn't be looked at for other areas. For example, we know that there are some financial conditions that are possibly influencing his actions as president. I think Congress needs to know whether he has been compromised by the Russians, by the Saudis, by the North Koreans. He just, in a tweet, undid American policy about sanctions against North Korea and said that he would lift some. I think people have a need to know that. That goes well beyond Robert Mueller.
It's just the difference between a prosecutor's role to investigate and prosecute crimes of a kind that violate an existing law and Congress' role to both find where there are gaps in the laws that need to be filled by new laws so that something that we think is wrong doesn't happen again. But it's also their role to hold the president accountable for things that are not crimes but that are just bad behavior that could affect American security. Our national security needs to be protected.
SIMON: Are you confident in Attorney General William Barr at this moment?
WINE-BANKS: No. I think that he is saying - during his confirmation, he said things that gave me more confidence. But he has a big hurdle to jump in my mind based on how he auditioned for the job of attorney general. His 19-page memo was really one that no law student could be proud to have written. He assumed facts that were totally not in existence in order to make his case.
SIMON: This was the memo he wrote - I'm trying to - it gets to be a pretty intricate story. But this was the memo he wrote saying what again?
WINE-BANKS: Well, he wrote a memo saying that the president basically couldn't be charged with anything.
WINE-BANKS: And he did it based on facts that weren't facts. He made up the facts to make his case. And that led us nowhere except to see that he was trying to say to the president, I'm your man. I've got your back. I won't let anything happen. So having done that voluntarily - as far as we know, no one asked him to opine on the subject. He just did. And he did it in a way that was very biased in its viewpoint. He was not open to the facts that might develop in the Mueller investigation.
And, by the way, I've always objected to calling it the Mueller investigation because, really, it's an investigation of Russian interference in the American election, and it's not Mueller's investigation. But now, maybe that makes sense because his work...
SIMON: We have to go. Jill Wine-Banks, thanks so much.
WINE-BANKS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.