The question I hurled several times at my TV during the six-hour-long Mueller hearing at the House Judiciary Committee yesterday (our night) was “In what way did President Trump obstruct your investigation?” That should have been the first question from the Republicans on the Committee. That was one question Special Counsel Robert Mueller could not have ducked with his oft-used excuse that it was ‘outside his purview’.
The reason I say that (apart from the fact it was never asked) is that the declared intent of the Democrats was to focus hard on the question of Presidential obstruction of justice and to try and get a gotcha moment, a smoking gun which the written Mueller report did not provide. The Democrats were looking for a knockout left hook. Instead, Mueller stumbled on the ropes for most of the bout. And yes, he did say that the investigation was not obstructed. That wasn’t good enough – not for the Demon-crats on this Committee.
The list of potentially obstructive matters in the written report – as in his answers to the repeated questions at the hearing – refer to President Trump wishing to make the investigation go away. Wishing to stop the Democrat-filled team trying to pin crimes on him, which he did not commit; a matter with which the report on collusion agrees. Wishing that his ‘people’ could do something to stop what he has always called the witchhunt.
Wishing that a prosecutor stop harassing you and your team, your family and your country when you are certain that you are innocent of the crime alleged against you (colluding with the Russians to fix the election in his favour) is not obstruction of justice, as Jim Jordan (R, Ohio) pointed out. The always jacket-less Representative was fired up about it, too.
Most potently, perhaps, some of the Republican members focused on Mueller’s report where it states that it does not exonerate Trump of obstruction of justice; referring to legal principals and prosecutorial rules, the Republicans (all within their allocated five minutes each) argued that this was a grave error at law, reversing the onus of proof. One of the members (a former prosecutor, armed with volumes of legal references) also argued that none of the four sections of the penal code, which were quoted in the report as authorities, were in fact applicable. And, he pointed out, nowhere in legal references can be found any such finding.
Mueller was often unfamiliar with his own report. He even contradicted his report on the matter of ‘collusion’ and ‘conspiracy’ being colloquially synonymous (even though legally different). He frequently answered questions by referring the questioner to his report.
It emerged that the report was really the compilation of his team. There was not one person who oversaw the entire report. Of the over 500 interviews conducted, he admitted to having attended “very few”. He would not answer questions about why there was no mention of some of the key players involved in the instigation of the investigation, such as the infamous political research company Fusion GPS and its owner Glenn R. Simpson, nor of the former UK spy Christopher Steele who compiled the fateful ‘dossier’ of dirt that was the excuse for the warrants to investigate the Trump team. Indeed, astonishingly, Mueller was ‘not aware’ of Fusion GPS, at the centre of the whole collusion accusation.
Nor did he answer why Joseph Mifsud was not charged with lying three times to the investigation, like several others who were charged. Mifsud is the man who presented as an academic but Republicans discovered was an ‘intelligence asset’ and set the whole ball rolling by setting up minor Trump team member George Papadopoulos to meet Australia’s former diplomat Alexander Downer in London, to plant the seeds of the investigation. Dirt on Trump was on offer …
Mueller’s poor performance has made it obvious why he was not intending to appear and testify about his report and the work behind it in front of this or any such committee, as he stated during his nine-minute public statement on May 29.
Then came the first post mortems. Not surprisingly, the Democrats and their media megaphones tried to salvage the day and made much of the ambiguity surrounding the question and answer about charging Trump once he was out of office. The question was whether he could be charged; Mueller said yes. But the question was generic: ‘could a President be charged with crimes after he leaves office’. Not ‘could the President be charged with crimes stemming from this report’.
But not even the Trump-denigrating media could find praise for Mueller’s performance or suggest that the Democrats got what they wanted. Trump was pumped, of course.
Now comes the future.
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.