Andrew Weissmann is one weird dude, to say the least.
Weissmann, an author, law professor, and MSNBC legal analyst, is a prolific user of social media—but rather than post a head shot on his Twitter bio page, Weissmann has a photo of a dog staring down a doll resembling Donald Trump lying face-up on the floor. It’s unclear if the dog is supposed to represent Weissmann, described as Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s “pit bull” during the Russia election collusion investigation, or it’s just another indication of Weissmann’s insatiable obsession with the 45th president of the United States.
Instead of posting freakish pictures of Trump, Weissmann should send Trump a thank you letter every day for the rest of his life. Without Trump, Weissman—best known for having the Supreme Court unanimously overturn his criminal prosecution of Arthur Andersen in 2005 and his failure to uncover any evidence that Trump was in cahoots with the Kremlin to sway the 2016 election—wouldn’t be the media’s go-to source for explaining why this time the Bad Orange Man is really going down.
He is the de facto head of a cottage industry populated by former federal prosecutors paid to give “expert” legal assessments on the Trump scandal du jour. On any given day, Weissmann and his onetime co-workers can be found on cable news shows or in the pages of the Washington Post ranting about Trump’s alleged disregard for the “rule of law” and reminding their equally-rabid followers that “no one is above the law.”
And the FBI’s pillage of Mar-a-Lago on August 8 put this cabal into overdrive. Despite the amusing shift in talking points about what federal investigators took from Trump’s residence that day—hysteria over secret nuclear codes quickly morphed into hysteria over empty folders after a list of seized “evidence” revealed 99 percent of the contraband included personal items such as news clippings and books—the former feds are convinced the trove is proof of Trump’s guilt.
Weissmann recently asked a Democratic congressman why the House Intelligence Committee isn’t investigating Trump on this matter, too. “There’s been no explanation from Donald Trump whatsoever as to why he took these, why he didn’t return them, why are the folders now empty,” Weissmann said to Representative Peter Welch (D-Vt.) on MSNBC last week. “So one question I have is whether some part of Congress . . . shouldn’t be asking the private citizen who was a public servant to come and testify to explain what happened. He is a citizen, all of us would have to respond to a congressional subpoena.”
Yes, Andrew Weissmann—a former president of the United States under investigation for violations of the Presidential Records Act is just like everyone else.
Not to be outdone, Weissmann’s former Justice Department colleague, Glenn Kirschner, is one of the most unstable anti-Trump commentators. Like many fed-turned-talking-heads, Kirschner also worked for Robert Mueller at the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia, the same office handling all criminal prosecutions related to January 6. Among his many psychotic opinions is the suggestion Trump should face manslaughter charges for those who died of COVID-19 while he was president. (No indication that Kirschner has made the same assessment regarding those who died while Joe Biden has been president.)
The empty folders have Kirschner in full meltdown mode. Admitting he has a “bone to pick with DOJ,” Kirschner told MSNBC’s Tiffany Cross last week that it’s way past time for federal prosecutors to pull the trigger.
“Donald Trump knows what he did with the classified documents that were supposed to be in the 43 empty classified documents folders that were taken from his office,” Kirschner raged on Saturday. “If Donald Trump were any other person on the planet, you know what law enforcement would be doing? They’d be getting an arrest warrant for him, they would lock him up, they would Mirandize him, and if he waived those rights they would interrogate him night and day until he shared with law enforcement how he might have compromised our national security. They’re not doing that.”
Of course, neither Kirschner nor anyone in his crowd can give a cogent explanation as to what the national security threat might be. They don’t even know if the allegation of a threat is accurate or, if true, how Trump threatened the safety of Americans. But that doesn’t matter to the braindead viewers of MSNBC who, like these former fed commentators and unlike most Americans, still trust the Department of Justice—so long as it’s in the hands of a Democratic Party appointee. Nor does it matter that Kirschner’s “any other person on the planet” language should include a long list of government officials, from Hillary Clinton to James Comey, who escaped punishment for possessing classified records.
But these aren’t just any papers, according to former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti: they’re comparable to illegal drugs. “Most of the statutes at issue in the Mar-a-Lago documents case are more similar to a narcotics case than a complicated bank fraud or obstruction of justice case,” Mariotti wrote in Politico on August 29. “Top Secret classified documents are a lot like narcotics from a criminal law perspective. You really don’t want to possess them if you are not authorized to do so.”
Barbara McQuade claimed if she were a prosecutor handling the case, the mystery of the empty folders “would really make my stomach turn.” McQuade, a former government prosecutor and current law professor at the University of Michigan, insisted the empty folders are the smoking gun that “makes it almost impossible to decline to file criminal charges against Trump.”
Los Angeles Times columnist and former fed Harry Litman suggested a solution to the mystery. “Even the best case scenario with the empty folders is that Trump (almost certainly—who else would have the gall to do it?) riffled through the classified docs to see what he had. This undoes the image of just scooping them up along w/ shirts and M&Ms and keeping them in boxes.”
Notwithstanding the absurd and often juvenile approach to such serious issues, these comments belie the feds’ purported claims of objective legal expertise. Weissmann and company are either really stupid or recklessly partisan—or both. At a time when Americans are rapidly losing faith in the nation’s most powerful law enforcement agency, this sort of unhinged spin from former Justice Department employees does nothing to restore the public’s confidence.
To the contrary, the nonstop partisan gaslighting justifies accusations by Trump and his supporters that the Justice Department largely exists to criminalize political dissent in America. And that reality, not a bunch of personal and government papers housed at Mar-a-Lago, poses the legitimate threat to the country’s safety and security.