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Mueller Fails Bigly Again

July 24, 2019

MuellerHearing

This could have been Robert Mueller’s day to be a patriotic hero, but he chose to stay a timid bureaucrat, following the rules laid down by William Barr and refusing to answer about anything that wasn’t in his report. And sometimes not even that.

Mueller is now a private citizen. He surely has some opinions about the import of the material he put in his report, which he should know better than anyone else.  There is no reason why he could not have connected the dots in this hearing in ways that he might have been constrained against doing while in his role as special prosecutor. But he resisted all questions about that. At the end of the HPSCI hearing, he was given an opportunity to share anything he thought the American people should know, but he said he couldn’t think of anything.

When Mueller was appointed, he was lionized as a fearless and impartial seeker after truth, a giant who Trump needed to fear. What we saw today was something else: a halting, often bumbling, past-his-prime, bureaucratic lifer, who accepted the quite outrageous limits Barr imposed on his testimony and refused time after time to acknowledge the implications of his own discoveries. He essentially admitted that he let Trump bully him into not issuing a subpoena because it would take too long to fight the court battles. He thereby enabled the strategy that the Trump administration is now using to refuse to comply with scores of congressional subpoenas. If, as some believe, that the Report was intended as a road map for impeachment, Mueller was unwilling even to utter the word when asked if that was he meant about leaving presidential accountability to other parts of the government.

Democrats mistakenly bet the farm on the Mueller investigation, and when that proved to be a disappointment, hoped that these hearings would be the blockbuster movie that would animate and make real to the public the dry facts contained in the book that few people had actually read. That didn’t happen.

Mueller made a terrible witness with his endless refusals to answer questions. He came across as evasive, tired, and just old. He refused multiple times to answer the central question that his report left hanging, i.e., did he think there was enough evidence to indict Trump for obstruction, disregarding the OLC opinion about charging a sitting president.

As a media event, which this was meant to be,  it was pretty much a bust. The Democrats had a few small moments and got Mueller to admit some of the most obvious things, e.g., that the Russian attack on the election was real and that the investigation wasn’t a witch hunt. But the answers he did give were couched in such carefully legalistic terms that they likely did not register with a public that wants simple clean answers. To a public raised on reality TV, the aggressive Republican attacks on the investigation and their introduction of fantastic alternative theories of Democrat malfeasance (like the real collusion was between the Clinton campaign and Russia), were probably much more compelling television. The Democrats wanted to move the needle of public opinion. If the needle moved at all, it may have been in the opposite direction.

So Robert Mueller is not our messiah. Nobody is going to save us. Impeachment is probably less likely after today. And Trump’s re-election chances probably just went up.

 

 

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