Mueller Testimony Means One Thing: Russiagate Is Over
(Adrian Norman) This morning, former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified before the House Judiciary Committee about his report on allegations of collusion with the Russians to influence the 2016 election and of obstruction of the investigation of that alleged collusion. It was a complete disaster for Democrats.
Mueller was not the sharp, legal behemoth he was purported to be ahead of the hearing. His presence was so befuddled that at many points he seemed confused and repeatedly had to have questions asked multiple times.
CBS News counted 110 instances of one-word answers.
Despite fevered questioning from House Democrats, little new information was learned, and Mueller actually undercut several key assertions.
In one exchange, Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) pressed him on obstruction, stating, “Based on the evidence that we have heard today, I believe a reasonable person could conclude that at least three crimes of obstruction of justice by the president occurred. We’re gonna hear about two additional crimes; that would be the witness tamperings of Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort.”
Mueller replied: “The only thing I want to add is that I’m going through the elements with you did not mean, or does not mean, that I subscribe to…uhm, the uh what you’re trying to prove through those elements.”
In a separate exchange, California Democrat Eric Swalwell pressed Mueller on a letter signed by 1,000 former prosecutors alleging that the president should/would have been charged if he were anyone other than the president.
Swalwell said, “In that letter, they said all of this conduct, trying to control and impede the investigation against the president by leveraging his authority over others is similar to conduct we have seen charged against other public officials and people in powerful positions. Are they wrong?” Mueller shot him down and said, “They have a different case.”
Mueller couldn’t say who actually wrote the March 27 letter responding to U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr’s summary of the report’s findings, nor would he say who signed off on that letter, despite the fact that it was penned in his own name.
Martha Roby (R-Ala.) pointedly asked, “Who wrote your March letter to the AG complaining about media coverage of your report?” Mueller said, “I can’t say.”
He said that of the 500 interviews conducted he attended “very few” of them.
He said that there was no one person in his office—including him—who reviewed all of the underlying evidence.
At many points, Mueller seemed completely unfamiliar with the contents of his own report. He also, as expected, refused to answer many questions.
Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) said, “You stated in your opening statement that you would not get into the Steele dossier, however, multiple times in volume two on page 23, 27 and 28 you mentioned the unverified allegations. How long did it take you to reach the conclusion that it was unverified?” Mueller responded, “I’m not going to speak to that.”
Steube pressed, “It’s actually in your report, multiple times that it’s unverified and you’re telling me that you’re not willing to tell us how you came to the conclusion that its unverified?” Mueller stated, “True.”
Mueller was asked, “When did you become aware that the unverified Steele dossier was included in the FISA application to spy on Carter Page?” and replied, “I’m not going to speak to that.”
When asked by Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) why he didn’t charge Joseph Misfud (an operative who told former Trump campaign advisor George Papadopolous that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton) for lying three times, when he charged others with lying, Mueller said, “We can’t get into charging decisions.”
Mueller also said that after his multiyear, $30 million dollar investigation (somehow) he wasn’t familiar with Fusion GPS, the firm behind the Steele dossier.
“It is absurd to suggest that an operative for the Democrats was meeting with this Russian lawyer [Natalia Veselnitskaya] the day before and the day after the Trump Tower meeting and yet that’s not something you referenced,” said Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.).
“Now, Glenn Simpson testified under oath he had dinner with Veselnitskaya the day before and the day after this meeting with the Trump team. Do you have any basis as you sit here today to believe that Steele was lying?” Mueller replied, “As I said before and I’ll say again, it’s not my purview others are investigating what you’re…”
Gaetz interrupted: “So it’s not your purview to look into whether or not Steele’s lying? It’s not you’re purview to look into whether or not anti-Trump Russians are lying to Steele? And it’s not your purview to look at whether or not Glenn Simpson was meeting with the Russians the day before and the day after you write 3,500 words about the Trump campaign meeting. So, I’m wondering how these decisions are guided.”
Much of the questioning of Democrats focused on trying to bait Mueller into providing a statement that could be the basis for launching impeachment proceedings. They focused heavily on volume two of the report, which examines the issue of obstruction, with a lot of attention given to statements that Trump wanted to fire Mueller. They assert that Trump’s desire to fire the special counsel constituted a basis for obstruction.
But, Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) cleared this issue up too, asking, “Were you fired by the president? Mueller said, “No.” She followed, “Were you allowed to conduct and conclude your investigation unhindered?” Mueller simply replied, “Yes.”
Being enraged over an investigation that may not have been adequately predicated is not a criminal offense. Wanting to do things—like fire a special counsel or have an attorney general un-recuse himself—that never actually happened is not a crime.
Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution provides that officials who serve in the executive branch of government serve at the pleasure of the president, which means they may be fired at any time with or without cause.
And although Democrats still point to this as some sort of evidence of “obstruction,” in Mueller’s own words he was able to conduct his investigation unimpeded.
House Democrats spent much time grandstanding and made assertions that because of the information he provided and the information in the report it was now their duty to pursue obstruction. But, there wasn’t anything new—there’s no there, there.
The fact of the matter is that Mueller didn’t provide any additional information beyond the contents of the report and by holding this hearing Democrats have now spent all of their ammunition on collusion and obstruction. It’s over.