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The painful, pointless testimony of Robert S. Mueller III

I almost felt sorry for the former special counsel

July 24, 2019

4:14 PM

24 July 2019

4:14 PM

If only his legs could reach that far, Rep. Jerry Nadler would be kicking himself now. Whose idea was it to indulge in this pathetic geriatric festival featuring antique G-Man Robert S. Mueller III?

The chap who suggested subjecting us all to the five-plus hours of this Howdy-Doody show should be furloughed immediately. For one thing, the escapade probably violated the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which explicitly prohibits, inter alia, cruel and unusual punishment.

Cruel the punishment certainly was, and not just to viewers. I almost felt sorry for Robert Mueller, who at 74 is clearly not the incisive interlocutor that he, by reputation, once was. ‘Dazed and confused’ read one Drudge Report headline. Exactly. Mueller’s cringe-making performance, full of blank, deer-in-the headlights stares, multiple requests to repeat the question (‘Director Mueller, what day is it today?’ ‘Would you repeat that?’), and a blinking, incontinent porousness in his responses, made the entire spectacle painful to watch. Asked about Fusion GPS, which hired Christopher Steele to compile the infamous Russian-sourced ‘dossier’ against Trump, Mueller said that was ‘not familiar‘ with them. Uh oh.

Scary option: he was telling the truth. As I say, I almost felt sorry for Robert Mueller — emphasis on the adverb — and then I remembered how many lives that horrible fanatic had ruined over the course of his career and what he and his squadron of Trump-hating lawyers put the country through for the past three years.

The punishment was unusual as well as cruel. Has it ever happened that a special counsel delivers a report that declines to recommend prosecution but who is nevertheless subjected to lengthy grilling in front of not one but two committees of the House?

Questioned by Republicans, Mueller tended to slump a bit and maunder. ‘That’s outside my purview’ was his favorite refrain, followed closely by ‘I refer you to the report,’ ‘I stand by what’s in the report,’ ‘If it’s from the report it is correct.’ Except he didn’t have a very good grasp of what was in the report. Questioned by Democrats, many of whom told him what a fine, upstanding American he was, he perked up like a parched flower that’s just been watered. But he still was vague, evasive, often non-committal. ‘That’s a matter being handled by others at the Department of Justice.’ ‘I’m not going to get into that.’ ‘Outside my purview.’ Occasionally he ventured a ‘yes’ or ‘correct.’

The Democrats kept saying that the Mueller report did not ‘exonerate’ the president of the charge of obstruction of justice. But special counsel reports are not in the business of exoneration. They are in the business of the determining whether their investigation uncovered grounds for an indictment. If not, their work is over.

The Mueller testimony that took place today had been delayed by a week because the Democrats needed to fine-tune their script. Taking that bit of advice to young Latin students to heart — ‘repetitio mater memoriae’ — nearly all of them included in their peroration the injunction that ‘no one is above the law, not even the president of the United States.’

What they meant was that no Republican president is above the law. They left Barack Obama out of account, as they did Hillary Clinton, whose list of probable felonies is longer than the list of Bill’s female conquests. (Strains of Don Giovanni: ‘mille e tre’). What their coordinated skits left entirely out of account — but what ranking member Devin Nunes and other Republicans reminded us of — was that critical legal principle, the presumption of innocence. Where was that in this whole witch hunt?

The court of public opinion does not trade in the presumption of innocence. It trades in scandal, gossip, leaks, and innuendo. Legal courts are supposed to be above all that. But the media-fed frenzy that was the FBI investigation, and then the special counsel investigation, of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians threw all caution to the winds. Trump was Putin’s poodle. His behavior was ‘treasonous,’ according to anti-Trump hysteric and former CIA director John Brennan. Yada, yada, yada.

Here are two take aways from today’s pathetic performance:

  1. Robert Mueller really wasn’t running the investigation. His lieutenants — never-Trump crusaders or Hillary-supporting Democrats — were running the show. He was the figurehead only.
  2. The second take-away was articulated by both Chuck Todd and Chris Wallace. The Mueller show was a ‘disaster’ for the Democrats and, indeed, as Wallace put it, a ‘disaster for the reputation of Robert Mueller.’

Why did the Democrats insist on having Mueller testify? They had already put the country — and the president — through nearly three years of a pointless investigation whose true purpose was to undo the results of a free, open, and democratic election. Trump won, Hillary lost. End of story. At least, it ought to have been the end of the story. But, as Devin Nunes said, the Democrats have insisted on treating the investigation as the search for the Loch Ness monster. The monster doesn’t exist, but that doesn’t stop them from circulating electrifying headlines and horrifying gossip.

I have to think that there is some method to their madness, but I have to confess that they lost me with this gambit. They humiliated a doddering old man and indulged in a series of pathetic, grandstanding statements that must have repelled most of the electorate. Republicans could simply air Adam Schiff’s embarrassing opening statement to the House Intelligence Committee’s proceedings as a hostile ad against him.

That’s OK with me, but still I second Devin Nunes’s hope that now, at last, finally, we can put this squalid farce behind us and embrace the results of the 2016 presidential election.


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