Robert Mueller testified last Wednesday before The House Judiciary committee in the morning and the House Intelligence Committee in the afternoon.
Mueller was clearly in a fog, suggesting either he is sick or else he spent full time doing Sudoku puzzles at his desk for the last 30 months. He obviously did not personally prepare the Mueller Report and probably has not even read most of it. He also stated he was involved in “very few” of the 500-plus witness interviews. Limiting his testimony to discussing only material in the written report, he refused to answer most questions from Republicans because they were “beyond my purview,” and he provided no detail in the few he did.
Although Mueller has testified to Congress multiple times before now, he was visibly uncomfortable and wishing to be somewhere else. Overall there were few, if any, pearls to take away after six hours of testimony. Ann Coulter quipped that the hearings amounted to “elder abuse;” all in all, a sad ending to what has been hyped as a distinguished career.
There were a few notable points amidst the tedious testimony. Mueller declined to discuss the origins of his investigation, the FISA court warrants for granting electronic surveillance or the Steele Dossier. At one point, he denied recognizing “Fusion GPS.” Because of Mueller’s terseness, there were many leading questions asked. During the morning hearing, Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., asked, “The reason, again, that you did not indict Donald Trump is because of OLC opinion stating that you cannot indict a sitting president. Correct?” Mueller replied, “Yes.” (OLC = Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel”). That’s exactly what House Democrats were fishing for, an indication that criminal obstruction had occurred.
But first thing in the afternoon, Mueller spoke into the mike and walked back the only big take-away from the morning hearing; “I want to go back to one thing that was said this morning … (That statement) is not the correct way to say it. As we say in the report, and as I said at the opening, we did not reach a determination as to whether the president committed a crime.” Committee Chairman Adam Schiff has been praised for some of his work in the afternoon session, where, again, using leading questions he guided Mueller through a condemnation of any association with a foreign power that is meddling with the American election process.
Just as Mueller proved unable to represent “his” investigation in a hearing room in the end, in the beginning, he was unable to put together a legal team without serious conflicts of interest. That is if he really was the team captain in the beginning. He hired as senior prosecutor Andrew Weissmann and FBI investigator Peter Strzok, both on the record as Trump haters, later firing Strzok after emails showing extreme bias came to light.
Another team member was Jeannie Rhee, former assistant attorney general under Barack Obama and a big donor to the Hillary Clinton campaign and one-time attorney representing Clinton. The team was seemingly bound together by a mutual dislike for Trump. An op-ed in Friday’s Wall Street Journal puts forward that Mueller’s investigation was not only an effort to undo the 2016 election, but also “was about protecting the actual miscreants in the collusion hoax.” That would-be Obama era high-ranking officials in the DOJ and FBI: James Comey, James Clapper, John Brennan, Strzok, Andrew McCabe, et al.
Lastly, at the hearings, Republicans asked Mueller several times where in the world of American jurisprudence does the concept exist of a prosecutor reporting that he is unable to exonerate the subject of his investigation. We assume innocence and prove guilt. Mueller replied that he wasn’t aware of another such case. Mueller’s weak performance should erase the last shred of doubt that the whole thing was a witch hunt that failed, a lot of time, money and shoe leather for nothing. Most of all, it has been a total disruption of the smooth operation of government and a mockery of the concept, “working for the good of the American people.” Finally, I remember the one-time Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein — a Trump hater himself — saying in 2017 that there was no evidence that Russian meddling had changed a single vote.