Mueller Hearing and What It Was(n’t)

The day that many House Democrats had long been anticipating finally came. Robert Mueller appeared in the House of Representatives to testify before the members of the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees.

  • The first set of questions was asked by the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Rep Jerry Nadler of NY who tried to stab the dragon in the eye. The questions were brief and the responses were still shorter. Mueller immediately was pushed to say that what Trump uses to summarize the report as “No Collusion, No Obstruction” is a baseless statement; that Trump wasn’t indicted because a sitting President cannot be indicted and that Trump, in comparison to what he frequently claims, wasn’t that collaborative. These very first moments of the hearing should technically suffice to put the Democrats leadership to thought: Why shouldn’t the President face the consequences of the lie that he has blatantly been carrying around over the past few months?
  • The ranking member, Rep Collins of GA and Rep Ratcliffe of TX gave out the GOP playbook of the day pretty quickly. What the GOP was after, was originally to undermine the integrity of Mueller’s team and the unnecessariness of the investigation in the first place. To this end, they often referred to Strzok and Page’s conduct and their text messages, a team which was made up of Democrats, lack of prosecution of those who were really guilty and the fact that the Clinton campaign’s misconducts has been overlooked throughout these years.
  • Democrats, on the other hand, tried to use the hearing as a means for those who haven’t read the Mueller Report so far; specifically we know that the number is overwhelmingly high. A few weeks ago, Rep Amash of MN, who left the GOP in response to its lack of reasonableness in front of Trump’s policies, held a town hall in his district and the reaction of the people after the event was beyond astonishing. People who had been relying on Trump and conservative media’s narrative of the report were feeling so surprised when faced with the real content of the report. A big part of Democrats’ questioning time went to reading critical parts of the report, specifically the second volume where the obstruction of justice has been treated, and considering each of the cases in order; as if it was an effort to exorcize a dead man to state his own will!
  • A lot of us haven’t heard Mueller speaking much. Mueller’s press conference on May 29th where he announced the permanent closure of the Special Counsel’s office was particular because many of us did not even have any idea of his voice. Mueller proved to be far from eloquent during the session. Apart from his continuous refusal to respond to a big part of the questions, which is understandable because of the security and intelligence matters, where he did answer, he mumbled continuously and often failed to be to the point. What made the matters worse was that at several points he failed to recall obvious details, including the President who had appointed him as the State Attorney in Massachusetts!
  • As a result, Mueller’s reluctance to respond beyond the content of the report and his unwillingness to uncover what lies beneath that content proved to be problematic for the democrats. This avoidance diminished in front of the Intelligence Committee and Mueller proved to be more collaborative during the second hearing.
  • The Intel Committee hearing began with Mueller correcting his earlier remark with Rep Lieu of CA that had been the hot take of the day; “The President had not been indicted because of the OLC opinion. That is not the correct way to say it.” Democrats were feeling victorious after the confirmation that Ted Lieu had made Mueller make, but Mueller’s roll-back was a disappointment.
  • Democrats, in order to reveal the gravity of some of the deeds committed by the President, had to take a longer route and turn what could have been a straight response into a matter of deductive reasoning. Rep Cicilline of RI, asking the former Special Counsel, tried to get to the bottom of the orders that Don McGahn had received from the President, Mueller refused to mention that he would have indicted the former White House Counsel if he had lied, according to the President’s order, to the Special Counsel. Cicilline then went to ask the Special Counsel if he had indicted others who had lied to the Special Counsel. The response, as Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort can tell us, was “yes!”
  • As the session went on, Mueller gained more boldness. Mueller was a different person after the first recess of the Judiciary Committee and a very different person during the Intel Committee hearing. His boldness then led him to mention the fact President’s former campaign associates’ lies to the Special Counsel made the process of the investigation harder; that asking for, welcoming, considering and embracing foreign sources against your opponent in an electoral process is considered unethical and under certain circumstances a crime; that due to the quantity of the intervention of foreign officials in the election, the investigation was not a mere “Witch Hunt.” Nevertheless, it was necessary specifically since the threat of future investigaton, from several countries, is real and the Trump administration is not doing enough to prevent its future instances, i.e. is not taking it seriously.
  • Republicans put a lot of effort to focus on the high expenses of the investigation (Rep Nunes of CA at some point said: Dir Mueller, you had unlimited budget.) They adhered tightly to the fact that the Steele Dossier was the original cause of the Russian investigation and that controversial figures such as Joseph Mifsud were neither indicted nor investigated. Mueller mostly refused to address these issues.
    GOP played the Strzok card too often; almost every Republican representative referred to the inadequacy of an investigation by a team whose members included Peter Strzok. Mueller who was reluctant to refer to this matter at the beginning, finally turned at it and highlighted Strzok’s immediate dismissal as a sign of the integrity of the investigation team.
    Another matter that Mueller somehow tried to settle was that the members of the team were selected according to their competence in conducting a sane investigation and not based on their political alignment. Obviously the entire members of the investigation team being Democrats is not a mere coincidence. With Mueller himself being a Republican, it comes as a proof of the former Special Counsel’s low regard for the current Republican party and what he referred to as “the new normal” established under the previous campaign.
    Mueller eventually admitted that Trump’s campaign members lies were deliberately later covered up under Trump’s presidency. He did also stress the fact that the President’s written responses to his questions left many of those questions unanswered while those responses that the President had provided were far from accurate. Mueller also mentioned the fact that issuing a subpoena for the President was useless because the Special Counsel knew “the President would fight the subpoena.”
    As Democrats tried to push with the narrative that AG Barr is trying to protect Donald Trump, while failing to get a confirmation from Mueller upon this, the GOP tried to laud the Attorney General for the investigations his department is currently conducting in order to prosecute those who, in Jim Jordan’s words, are really guilty.
    After a final exchange with Rep Schiff of CA, who chairs the Intel Committee, Mueller admitted that the threat laid out by the Russians against the integrity of the electoral procedure continues to exist “as we sit here” and that the attempt to rely upon and welcome this help from foreign governments, with hints Schiff made to Trump’s recent talks with Stephanopoulos from ABC, is wrong, unpatriotic and, as Mueller insisted, a crime.
    Democrats were really looking forward to this session; however, it seems Mueller did not live up to their expectations. Rep Schiff closed the day by saying that the House will continue the investigations, but the fact that the House Democrats have not visibly changed their tone comes as a proof that Mueller’s testimony did not yield what Democrats were after. The question that a lot of people were looking forward to Mueller’s answer to it — whether the President should be impeached or not— received no answer from Mueller; Although he mentioned several times that Trump can be prosecuted after the end of his presidency. Nevertheless, if Dems want that day to come sooner they should definitely push their leadership in DC into a different road.

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