In the report detailing findings of his Russia investigation, former special counsel Robert Mueller failed to indict Donald Trump either on charges of conspiracy with Russia to tamper with the 2016 presidential election or on obstruction of justice over Trump's purported attempts to quash the Mueller investigation. In the report, accessible online via The New York Times, Mueller says that he couldn't find enough evidence to support a charge of conspiracy between Trump and Russia and that a Justice Department rule prevented him from indicting Trump for obstruction or anything else.
Those were Mueller's stated reasons. But on Tuesday, 65-year-old veteran journalist Michael Wolff, who has now authored two books about the inner workings of the Trump White House, said in an interview with Radio Public that Mueller had another, even more fundamental reason for his failure to indict Trump — his own fear that Trump would "take the country's political institutions down with him" to do whatever it took to avoid prosecution.
"Mueller was thinking that Donald Trump wears a suicide vest of sorts," Wolff told Salon reporter Chauncey De Vega, adding that Mueller feared that if he backed Trump "into a corner," Trump would "blow up everything."
According to political analyst Paul Rosenzweig, writing in The Atlantic, Mueller is, "at his core, an institutionalist," meaning that he places more importance on the institutions of American government than on individuals who serve in those institutions. But his "institutional" approach, according to Wolff, was the factor preventing Mueller from indicting Trump.
"Mueller is an institutionalist. He plays by the book," Wolff said in the interview. "He plays by the rules. Robert Mueller sees a larger picture than just his assignment to go and get Donald Trump."
At the same time, however, in his recent book Siege: Trump Under Fire, Wolff reports that Mueller did, in fact, draw up a 56-page "draft indictment" of Trump, but then shelved it — an allegation that was denied by Mueller through his spokesperson Peter Carr. But Wolff told National Public Radio that he had the document in his possession.
In his first and only public statement on the investigation, according to a transcript posted by Axios, Mueller said that he never considered an indictment of Trump due to "long-standing" Justice Department policy, which says that "a President cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office."
But according to Wolff, Mueller's "institutionalist" approach may have put the United States in great danger.
"Donald Trump... is a madman. Donald Trump is a psychopath," he told DeVega. "This is something to be afraid of."