Trump's draft memo firing James Comey was 'tinfoil helmet material,' according to a former Mueller prosecutor's upcoming book

ssheth@businessinsider.com (Sonam Sheth)
·4 min read
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Then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in September 2015.
  • A draft memo that President Donald Trump composed laying out his reasons for firing FBI Director James Comey was "tinfoil helmet material," a former member of the special counsel Robert Mueller's team said.

  • That's according to "Where Law Ends," an upcoming memoir by Andrew Weissmann, who worked on Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

  • Weissmann wrote in his book that James Quarles, another prosecutor on the team, described Trump's draft memo as "tinfoil helmet material" in June 2017.

  • "I read the document immediately, while Jim stood over my desk," Weissmann said, referring to the draft memo. "It was excruciatingly juvenile, disorganized, and brimming with spite — incoherent and narcissistic. You could almost feel the spittle coming off the paper."

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A former prosecutor on the special counsel Robert Mueller's team described a memo that President Donald Trump drafted laying out his reasons for firing FBI Director James Comey as "tinfoil helmet material," according to a new book.

The former prosecutor, James Quarles, described the memo that way in a conversation with another prosecutor on Mueller's team, Andrew Weissmann, according to Weissmann's upcoming memoir, "Where Law Ends." Business Insider obtained an early copy of the book.

Related: Hillary Clinton responds to James Comey’s t-shirt

"Read this," Quarles told Weissmann in June 2017, shortly after Mueller's team acquired the draft memo, according to the book. "It's tinfoil helmet material."

The memo, which Trump drafted in May of that year with help from one of his top advisers, gave Mueller's team a valuable window into Trump's thinking in the days before he fired Comey. At the time, Comey was spearheading the FBI's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The president did not send the memo to Comey after then-White House counsel Don McGahn expressed strong opposition to the move. Ultimately, the White House enlisted Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein, respectively the attorney general and deputy attorney general at the time, to compose memos justifying Comey's dismissal.

"I read the document immediately, while Jim stood over my desk," Weissmann said, referring to the draft memo. "It was excruciatingly juvenile, disorganized, and brimming with spite — incoherent and narcissistic. You could almost feel the spittle coming off the paper."

Trump and his adviser Stephen Miller put the memo together shortly after Comey confirmed the existence of the Russia probe to Congress.

"In the memo, Trump went out of his way to mention, repeatedly, that Comey had assured him 'on three separate occasions' that he was not under investigation," Weissmann wrote. "From there, it devolved into a stream-of-consciousness tirade against Comey, his investigation into Russian interference in the election, his handling of the Clinton investigation, his mishandling of the FBI, and other grievances, both real and imagined."

Weissmann added that he and Quarles "knew we were looking at perhaps the rawest, most authentic record of the president's thought process — a distillation of his state of mind as he set Comey's firing in motion."

The draft memo played a critical role in Mueller's obstruction-of-justice investigation into the president. Ultimately, the special counsel declined to make a "traditional prosecutorial judgment" on whether the president obstructed justice, citing a Justice Department memo that says a sitting president cannot be indicted.

Weissmann's book, which is set to be released Tuesday, was deeply critical of Mueller's decision in the matter.

When he was asked if Mueller had let down the American public, Weissmann told The Atlantic, "Absolutely, yep." He added: "I wouldn't phrase it as just Mueller. I would say 'the office.' There are a lot of things we did well, and a lot of things we could have done better, to be diplomatic about it."

He also told the outlet: "There's no question I was frustrated at the time. There was more that could be done that we didn't do."

Weissmann added that the Senate Intelligence Committee did a better job at reaching concrete conclusions in its recent report detailing the panel's own investigation into Russian election meddling.

"Even with 1,000 pages, it was better," he said. "It made judgments and calls, instead of saying, 'You could say this and you could say that.'"

Weissmann wrote that he decided to publish a memoir after Attorney General William Barr released a four-page letter that significantly mischaracterized Mueller's findings in the Russia investigation. Barr had "betrayed both friend and country" by misleading the public about the investigation's conclusions, Weissmann wrote in his book.

"I wrote it very much so there would be a public record from somebody, at least one viewpoint, from the inside as opposed to the story being told in maybe a less accurate way by people from the outside," he told The Washington Post.

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