Friday, May 24, 2019

Mueller Wants To Testify In Private? A Non-Starter - We Need Men (Patriots), Not Mice

The hyper- cerebral, reserved Bob Mueller of today was a courageous FBI head who didn't dodge public hearings in the past.

"I think Robert Mueller is a little bit too concerned that his work could be interpreted politically.  You cannot take quite so much of the politics out of politics. ..While I certainly understand the idea that when you get put in front of a camera - given congress the way that it is - a lot of people are going to be grandstanding to create that one viral moment. 

Nevertheless the idea you don't do it because it could be politicized to the American people, I mean you're working for the American people.  So that doesn't quite add up to me".  Ezra Klein last night on 'Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell'

The news that broke last night on MSNBC (out of the mouth of Jerrold Nadler), that Robert Mueller has agreed to testify before the House Judiciary Committee in private - but not in public -  left many Dems deflated as it would.   The Mueller news broke mere hours after we earlier learned that Trump has given William Barr unprecedented authority to access select information (e.g. on FBI secret warrants etc.) to declassify.   That gives Barr the total power to control the narrative on the origins of the Russia investigation and the gist of the Mueller report itself. Even more worrying, that this fecal administration - full of obsequious sycophants-  now intends to use the 1917 Espionage Act against Assange as a means to attack and subvert the press and 1st amendment. In the words of Rachel Maddow last night:

"The Justice Department today just put every journalistic institution in this country on Julian Assange's side of the ledger, which I know is unimaginable. But that is because the Trump government is now trying to assert this brand new right to criminally prosecute people for publishing secret stuff. But newspapers, magazine and investigative journalists and all sorts of different entities publish secret stuff all the time. That is the bread and butter of what we do.... This is now a novel, legal effort to punch a huge hole in the first amendment, by labeling it spying, labeling it criminal espionage to publish secret stuff."

Anyone with half a brain should clearly be able to see we are in the midst of a 4-alarm constitutional fire that elicits the question of which patriot or patriots will step forth to put it out. The relentless stonewalling by Trump and his minions of the congress' oversight duty, by blocking all subpoenas, have brought us here. But also Barr himself twisting the significance and findings of Mueller's report two months ago.   

All of which begs the question of whether the guy who spent two years investigating the Trump criminal enterprise (with over 38 indictments) is a man - by that I mean a true patriot in these most parlous times   - or a veritable mouse?  This must be asked because all of Mueller's reservations about not wishing to be a political spectacle aside, his country desperately needs his testicular fortitude right now. Given how many subpoenas have been blown off, Trump aides denied appearing for House hearings,  this is Mueller's time to come forward. This is his time and opportunity to speak to Americans with cameras rolling, like John Dean did 45 years ago. 

The narrative that Mueller is a quiet man of rectitude who opts not to be in the spotlight in the midst of a "political circus" (which we know House GOOPs would create), was also shattered last night.  This was compliments of former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld (on MSNBCs 'Last  Word').  As Weld pointedly noted:

"I suspect he wants to avoid a circus. But he's testified many times before in high pressure situations with a lot of members from both parties from time to time being angry at the performance of the FBI. And he always stood there and took it. And he can do that again, believe me, he's a tough guy. I've worked shoulder to shoulder with him and he can more than hold his own."

Terrific that Mueller is - or was - a "tough guy"  and "could hold his own" in open hearings, but we need him to do that now in defense of the country, not just the FBI. As former Senator and Watergate prosecutor Elizabeth Holtzman has observed, Americans need to be educated about what's in the report, in open televised hearings such as with Watergate, not just be forced to read about it in an abstract format.  We, the American people, therefore need to see Mueller and hear his voice, not just read his answers on  transcripts! (Besides, as Marshall McLuhan once emphasized, "the medium is the message."  In this case, print simply doesn't carry the same punch as the voice, motions-emotions embodied in television.)

Barr has already made a mockery of Mueller's report, and his failure to render definitive judgments, leaving that to congress. But congress itself has now been hamstrung  in its investigatory oversight role by unilateral and pervasive stonewalling by Trump  - making the Constitution's separation of powers moribund, defeated and now almost irrelevant.

  We indeed are at a precipice where this Republic could find itself soon in a fascist maelstrom, as Trump and his cabal try to ramp up a pseudo investigation of the FBI ("investigate the investigators").  Oh, and use Julian Assange as a vehicle to attack press freedom, via the 1917 Espionage Act.  This move, especially if successful in getting Assange's extradition, would undermine first amendment protections for all citizens.  But especially those in the news media (e.g. NY Times) or those who circulate news ("divulging secrets") second hand that the Trump cabal doesn't want citizens to see - including bloggers like me.

Barely three weeks ago, NY Times columnist Maureen Dowd best summed up the predicament and Mueller's reticence to come to the aid of his country:

"The transformation of William Barr from respected establishment lawyer to evil genius outplaying and undermining his old friend Robert Mueller is a Grand Guignol spectacle.

At many of the most consequential moments in American history, I have watched officials bend over backward to be equitable, only to end up faltering and doing enormous damage to the Republic.

It is possible to be “fair” in a way that is not at all fair.

It’s simply bad judgment, ceding the ground to malevolent actors who use any means to achieve their ends, including flattening and sliming the proponents of “fairness.”

Ms. Dowd at the time was referencing Mueller's overwhelming reluctance to render definitive positions on Trump in his report. Indeed one NY Book Review take on it was that Mueller sought to be scrupulously  "fair".  Well, he was indeed that, to the point of folly and enabling the bad guys to get away with their evil deeds - and now put the good guys in their sights.

The same dynamic is at work  with this desire to do private testimony but with a slight variation: Mueller doesn't want the bright lights and cameras on him (like James Comey faced in 2017, courageously I might add) because it might have "political" fallout and repercussions. Hence, Mueller only wants to be questioned behind closed doors and what he says there released later in transcripts.  But this is the weasel's way out, because Mueller has to know Americans don't have the time or patience to read testimony in transcripts.  Hence, they need to see it live,  televised in real time on TV, for the impact to sink in - precisely Elizabeth Holtzman's point, as well as many other former Watergate staffers, i.e. Jill Wine-Banks.

As a case in point, though I took the time and trouble of excerpting Don McGahn's key testimony to Mueller's investigators - extracted verbatim from the full Mueller report- only 17 have read that Wednesday post up to now.   Not a very auspicious sign, though true, ten times more may read a Mueller transcript. 

This is why we need to hear and see Mueller in full disclosure mode, nothing held back, to do what John Dean did for the nation 45 years ago in his three days of Watergate hearings. We need that patriot to come forward, not the more recent "mouse" iteration who prefers to hide in the shadows - his words emitted second hand in filters. 

This is given how each hearings setback, each subpoena ignored,  is another win for Trump which he will use to beat our Republic into his own fascist autocracy.  The time is critical, and Mueller's testimony in the open now could pave the way for an impeachment inquiry  in the next few weeks

 More to the point, I suspect the Mueller who once had the courage to testify in public hearings - as told by Bill Weld - has since become  a victim of his  own self-perceived rectitude. Perhaps since being named special prosecutor, who knows?   This has engendered  his compulsive 'need' to err on the side of caution:  bending over too far backwards so as not to appear unfair. In the case of his own report, faced with the OLC  trope that "no president can be indicted" -  and Trump's refusal to show up to answer questions in person. Thus he reasoned he had no choice other than to punt. (Though Weld suggests that Barr threatened to kill any indictments if Mueller delivered them.)  Despite all that, as the now nearly 1000 plus former prosecutors attest - his report was an indictment in all but name.   Read it and you will agree as well!  Ah, but yeah, it's too much to read at 448 pages, and hell even a 22 page excerpt is too much to read when there's Fortnite to play and a holiday to enjoy.

The FBI Mueller of recent history, it is true, would face the cameras and speak truth to power -  ally and foe alike. The new "special prosecutor"  Mueller is averse to public testimony because: 1) He doesn't want too many millions of Americans directly seeing and hearing what he said or concluded - because of the political heat he might take, and 2) he doesn't want to lock horns with his old pal and original "mentor" Barr.  But look, that cow escaped after the barn door was left ajar - not long after Barr issued his spurious summary of Mueller's report - when Mueller left that 'door' open to mischief.  I'd also affirm the politics escaped back then too, lest we forget.  

Not too happy about Barr's disingenuous presentation, Mueller wrote in the wake of its release: "There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation. This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel to assure public confidence in the outcome of the investigations."

The letter in its totality,  according to The Washington Post, was described as laying out Mueller's concerns "in stark terms that shocked Justice Department officials".

So hey, the cat is already out of the bag that Mueller may not be a big fan of Barr's any more. It's long past time then to ditch the bromance and bring on the Brigadung, to use the Bajan parlance.    As Bill Weld put it last night, "believe me, he's a tough guy. I've worked shoulder to shoulder with him and he can more than hold his own."

Well, we will see, indeed whether he has the gumption to go live and in person like James Comey did.  With all the GOP-Trump stonewalling on legislative oversight, spitting on the Constitution in one former Watergate prosecutor's words, we need a patriot and hero to come forth. Someone with the moxie to unflinchingly face those cameras, like Dr. Christine Blasey Ford did back in October. Someone (we hope) who possesses the moral compass and cojones to speak truth no matter the lights, Reepo (or Trump) blowback,  and chaos that might ensue.

Bob Mueller, your country is calling you now! Are you up to it ?  Or will you opt to hide behind closed doors and deliver your testimony via a "transcript" that virtually no one will read?  A move that will only empower Trump further and allow Barr to distort your report even more - as he turns investigators on the investigators. It is time for good (and courageous!)men to come to the aid of their country, as my revolutionary war ancestor Conrad Brumbaugh did over 245 years ago.

If Mueller isn't courageous enough to don the patriot mantle, and disdains descending into the fray, then Jerrold Nadler has no choice but to issue a subpoena for him to testify publicly. No more "Mr. Nice Guy"!

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Cody Fenwick's picture
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"Mueller doesn’t get to be the ultimate arbiter of what is and isn’t political. And he’s not a flower that will wilt with too much exposure."


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