"Mueller’s refusal to play star witness was aided by a disorganised flurry of questions from Democratic lawmakers. Had the party wanted to squeeze more juice from the Mueller lemon, lawmakers would have ceded their time to a single interrogator. Each preferred to retain their five-minute moment on television. The result were squandered hearings that enhanced the impression of Democratic disarray." - Edward Luce, The Financial Times
Well, the Bob Mueller Show is over. The question now on pundits' minds - as well as everyone else's is: Was it worth it? We knew from the get go the jut-jawed former FBI head was a reluctant witness. Meaning he had been sending a very clear message: He didn’t want to testify. In other words: Leave me the hell alone.
That was the the not-so-subtle subtext underpinning the agreement to submit to House Democrats (Intelligence and Judiciary Committees) subpoenas, and hence yesterday's "show" which we watched from one end to the other. What did we come away with? First, Mueller was not on his game, particularly in the first (Judiciary committee) session. He indeed displayed every one of his 75 years of age and at times it was almost painful to watch, especially as the nonstop questions (WAY too many) kept bombarding him - forcing him to often pause to try to get his textual reference (from his own report) orientation. This isn't just me, or Janice - who fully agreed with that sentiment. David Axelrod, a former top Obama White House strategist while Bob Mueller was still serving as F.B.I. director, wrote on Twitter.:
"This is delicate to say, but Mueller, whom I deeply respect, has not publicly testified before Congress in at least six years. And he does not appear as sharp as he was then"
Well, that was putting it tamely, to say the least. Fortunately, Mueller delivered a far more coherent performance in the afternoon, when the questioning focused on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election instead of whether the president had obstructed justice. Even so, he was not as focused or verbally precise as he was in his dozens of previous appearances as FBI director. As I indicated, at times his hesitancy was almost too painful to watch - in the first session. Further, the tone deaf barrage of questions didn't help, almost turning the a.m. session into a farce. (With the exception of Jerrold Nadler's 3 well -focused questions getting Mueller to affirm his investigation was no hoax, and no "witch hunt". Also that Trump broke the law.)
By the time mark of 25 minutes into the hearings, it ought to have been obvious to anyone with a brain that Mueller was not the Mueller of old - but way too old (now) - to deal with the question onslaught for 6- 7 hours. And even if the Reeps wouldn't pull back, the Dems should have, especially as way too many questions were "Look at me!" efforts we could have done without. There were also too many questions in literal barrages, off the topic and of the "gotcha" semantics type, hatched and hurled by the assorted Reeptards. Like the imp by the name of Doug Collins from GA, and another imp (John Lee Rat-cliffe) from Texas, not to mention the (Ranking) traitor, errrr Intel committee member, Devin Nunes who continued to beat the drums for the Steele dossier as the trigger for Mueller's probe in the followup Intelligence Committee session.
Permutations of this horse shit, via at least 10 attempted questions, were proffered by Nunes and his clique of clowns time after time during the p.m. Intel hearings. These sought to portray the ostensible Hillary- FBI- Steele Dossier- Fusion GPS conspiracy as the basis for attacking Trump's legitimacy as president. All, I might add, skillfully swatted down by Mueller. (Who almost seemed to evince a wry smile when Nunes belched about a "conspiracy" - via Mueller & Co.- at the end of the House Intel session..)
In retrospect, it was fortuitous that the DOJ testimony guidelines - outlined in AG Barr's letter prior to the hearings - were beneficial in allowing Mueller to bat away numerous nutso questions from the Reeptard Peanut gallery. Time after time when Nunes or one of his puppets asked about the Steele dossier or Fusion GPS, Mueller simply gave a terse swipe away,e.g. "I can't get into that.", "That is outside of my bailiwick" Or: "That's outside my purview". So Mueller, even though not having his best day, wasn't having any of this recycled codswallop.
However, what I saw yesterday as the real threat to a long term hearings benefit (for the Ds) was the Repukes' unified and repeated efforts to malign and undermine Mueller's integrity and character. They did this by using obscure citations from his Report on certain language used, and related semantics issues pushed via loaded questions . Likely further emboldened to continue by the total absence of any Dem ripostes or even mild contradiction. For example, Georgia conservative Collins in his Judiciary turn fired off 8-10 questions, grilling Mueller on the "colloquial differences" between collusion and conspiracy, trying to trap him into admitting a contradiction, i.e. from the words used in his report. The objective was to paint Mueller as a liar or misrepresenting his words in his report. Given Mueller in the a.m. was not his best- hesitant, halting and slow - it was almost like watching a rabid Rottweiler ripping into an elderly Great Dane.
I literally screamed that the next Dem ought to squelch that meme one time by either allowing Mueller to respond to the obfuscations and innuendo of Collins, or better, making a cogent argument to dispel the wretched efforts at tarring the former special prosecutor. But what did we get instead? The female rep simply launched robotically into her own questions, oblivious to Mueller's struggles, leaving Collins' scurrilous suggestions hanging in the air like ripe turds at a garden party.
This was repeated when the TX slimeball John Lee Ratcliffe tore into Mueller for not following special counsel rules and "writing about decisions that weren't reached." Again, invoking cheap semantics ploys to confuse and obfuscate, as when Ratcliffe bloviated:
"In the special counsel's job nowhere does it say you were to conclusively determine Donald Trump's innocence or that the special counsel report should determine whether or not to exonerate him. It's not in any of the documents. It's not in your appointment order. It's not in the special counsel regulations. It's not in the OLC opinions. It's not in the Justice Manual and it's not in the Principles of Federal Prosecution."
Going on to witlessly blab:
"So Americans need to know this as they listen to the Democrats and socialists or the others in the aisle as they do dramatic readings from Volume II of this report that was not authorized under the law to be written. It was written to a legal standard that does not exist at the Justice Department. and it was written in violation of every DOJ principle about extra prosecutorial commentary."
The claim by Ratcliffe of Volume II (obstruction ) "not being authorized" is especially choice given Mueller had an unlimited remit to investigate anything connected to the main case. That included any EFFORTS at obstruction such as Trump ordering his attorney Don McGahn to fire Mueller. The fact he didn't succeed doesn't mean the crime didn't occur ("in the end nothing was obstructed" according to the WSJ editorial yesterday). Thus, the Trump Reep protectors (and WSJ) either ignore or forget the attempt is also a crime, just like attempted murder is a crime - even if it doesn't succeed. Just like an attempted theft by a shoplifter is a crime, despite being caught in the act. (Dem Judiciary member: "Simply trying to obstruct justice can be a crime, right?" Mueller: True.)
In Ratcliff'e pursuit of the semantics of the exoneration theme, he conflates multiple aspects in connection with Mueller's statement that he could not exonerate Trump. Recall Mueller (in Vol. 2) identified 10 incidents in which Trump attempted to obstruct justice, for example by firing the director of the FBI, though he stopped short of charging the Dotard with a crime. In his words: "If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that," Mueller said in May during his first public comments about his investigation. "We did not determine whether the president did commit a crime." "
What Ratcliffe (and another Reep imp on the intel committee) did was to conflate a positive authority ( i.e. to exonerate) with a negatively -framed statement embodying an acknowledged limited authority (i.e. "could not exonerate") Then he desperately tried to twist the latter as unwarranted and disallowed because no special "DOJ document" existed to support it. Well, of course not, asshole! Because Mueller referenced a negatively framed outcome, not a positive power he innately possessed! Hence, Mueller's act of non-exoneration emerges not as an "extra prosecutorial comment" but a humble recognition on Mueller's part. As for the claim of a "legal standard that doesn't exist", well no, because it's plain common sense! Finding insufficient evidence to indict for a crime, is NOT the same as averring no crime. By extension, asserting (as a special prosecutor) he would have exonerated Trump IF the confidence was there to does not constitute misuse of prosecutorial power. There is no special undocumented "power" being invoked, but rather a qualified take on the extent of that power. A huge difference!
Thus Ratcliffe was off base in his demand that Mueller provide a DOJ "report" to substantiate that he could not exonerate Trump, as well as claiming the Mueller Report Vol. II was "not authorized". Obama's former acting solicitor general Neal Katyal also bounced Ratcliffe's specious malarkey in a subsequent tweet e.g.
But again, we desperately waited for a Judiciary Committee Dem counter blast in Mueller's defense, but none came. As Janice put it, "The silence was deafening". The next Dem like the earlier one (following Collins disreputable framing) simply went on with her own questions like a wind-up automaton, oblivious to Ratcliffe's insinuations. It ought to have been done and IF Dems had done their background checks on this House Repuke they might have learned CNN reported that Ratcliffe's argument was previously made by Emmet Flood, the former White House lawyer who oversaw the Trump administration's response to the special counsel's probe, to Attorney General William Barr following the release of Mueller's report
At other times, assorted pukes assaulted Mueller's character and reputation, by bombarding him with specious, technical questions that further weaponized semantics - and which no Dem had any remote idea how to rebut in their own turns. Or, it may have been they were so committed to their notes and asking their own questions they opted to ignore the GOP subversion. Bad idea! So they allowed the Reeps to get away with withering and coordinated skullduggery (def. dishonorable proceedings, using trickery, deceitful behavior)
As Janice put it, after another round of GOOPr slanted questions and no direct rebuttal from the House Dems: "What's the matter, can't they think on their feet? Don't they realize they have to deal not only with Mueller but the Reeps efforts to slander him?" Well no, hon, evidently
having spent hours in preparations - even in mock hearings - according to the pundits, they were not about to allow their own questions to take a back seat to repelling the tactical (and well thought out) Republican attacks. So by the end of the session I had: House GOP 7, Dems 2.
It would have made more tactical sense, instead of the Dems peppering Mueller with hundreds of rapid fire (often redundant) questions, nearly half of which he had to ask to repeat, i.e for citations , to instead limit them to one or two and then focus on rebutting the gnarly Reeptard attacks on Mueller's character. Indeed, former prosecutor Neal Katyal gave the template (getting 3 simple answers) days before, e.g.
Opinion | With Three Simple Answers, Mueller Can Speak Volumes ...
It also didn't redound to the Dems benefit to ask so many questions given Mueller was not on his game in the a.m. I also believe it led to dozens of his terse one word responses ("correct", "true", etc.), which as one pundit noted, detracted from a desirable coherence. I warrant most Americans watching - by the 4th or 5th House Judiciary member's 5 minute turn (with another 5-7 questions in rapid succession) would have simply turned off the tube. Indeed, if one hadn't actually read the Mueller report the thrust of questioning would have appeared haphazard, and mostly desperate. Again, I present the link to the full Mueller report which readers can access here:
At the end of the day, what did we learn? Well, that the Dems need to cease relying on Mueller (or the courts) to carry the ball forward for them on impeachment. The trope now circulating in the mainstream media is that the Mueller testimony didn't do much at all. As one talking head (Jonathan Karl) opined this a.m. on ABC, "not only did it not advance the ball for impeachment, it may have set it back."
Which merely tells me the Dems need to do their duty to protect the nation, and not depend on outside forces or agents to make the case for them. Or provide cover- say to drive a "groundswell" of supporting public opinion- to justify opening an impeachment inquiry. As former Dem Senator and Watergate investigator Elizabeth Holtzman noted on 'All In' last night, the Framers never intended political considerations to govern whether to impeach a "rogue" president. Oh no. In her words:
"People say well we shouldn't do an impeachment now because we can solve it in the next election. That was exactly the issue that arose on the floor of the (Constitutional) Convention in Philadelphia. When impeachment was mentioned delegates said 'Oh no, we'll solve the problem in the next election'. But opponents said, look, we can't have a president who's going to destroy our democracy.
And that argument, that the election will be the solution, lost. The framers said oh no, we can't trust our democracy to someone who is going to destroy it - for any period. The point is that politics is not just the way to look at this, We have to go at it in terms that congress has the responsibility to save the country. "
"What happens if he's re-elected? And there is no impeachment? What is he doing in his next term? If we don't deal with that now, who else will? If impeachment is not used now, what is the check? We will be well on our way to dictatorship or some kind of tyranny."
Thus exposing that Pelosi's hope to oust Dotard finally in the 2020 election may come a cropper, and indeed many pundits already see him using the Electoral College to sneak in another win - despite losing the popular vote. (The National Popular Vote movement might stop that but right now it's halted at 196, and needs 74 more votes from at least a dozen smaller states to go over the top - and is not likely to happen).
Indeed. And Mueller made it clear, though he didn't use the I-word specifically, that impeachment is the legal and constitutional remedy for a rogue president who believes he's above the law. Pelosi might do well to read Mike Littwin's comments in his recent (July 25-26) column in the COS Independent, e.g.:
"Trump tells the House that he is basically above investigation, and the House doesn’t fight back. It doesn’t rally the troops. It slow-walks any objection through the courts. Despite rumblings, the members have basically followed Pelosi’s lead, even when she openly feuded with the Squad. Trump ended the feud, at least for now. But what Pelosi knows is that an impeachment inquiry would inevitably lead to impeachment. It’s all there. Read the report. I have because, well, it’s my job, and I promise you it’s all in there.
Adam Serwer writes in The Atlantic how we react to this moment —
“The Democratic Party cannot fulfill its constitutional responsibilities because its leadership lives in abject terror of being ejected from office by alienating the voters to whom Trump’s nationalism appeals. In effect, the majority of the American electorate, which voted against Trump in 2016 and then gave the Democrats a House majority in 2018, has no representation.”
The bottom line is the ball is in Pelosi's court to deal with this rogue resident we have flouting every norm and law, while he's seeking active help from foreign nations to get re-elected. She said yesterday after Mueller's testimony she wants to "have the strongest hand" before moving forward, but she already has that "hand" in his total stonewalling which amounts to blatant obstruction and violation of checks and balances. While Nancy waits for the courts to render critical decisions, Trump is eviscerating her and turning the House into eunuchs. If the Dems are blown out next year in the general election- or even just lose the electoral college once more but win the popular vote - she will have to share much of the blame.
Holtzman's fear - and my own- is if congress doesn't move on this soon, and cease waiting for the courts, Trump may well get a second term and there will be no more checks and balances.
"If you missed the recent Nate Cohn story on the front page of The New York Times, he wrote that Trump could lose the popular vote in 2020 by 5 percent and still somehow win the Electoral College, thereby rewarding Trump’s efforts to keep America divided."
Are you listening, Nancy, or do you still have your head buried in the sand?
Little Robbie Mueller’s book report
"As most viewers can figure out, a disturbing pattern emerged long before the 10:52 mark of the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing, which opened at 8:30 a.m. All Democrats on the committee would read excerpts of the report and ask Mueller, the former special counsel, to confirm those excerpts.
Mueller repeatedly affirmed those excerpts with such phrases as “yes,” “correct” and “that’s true.” He conceded that Trump was never “exonerated,” which the report made clear in its description of 10 incidents that constituted obstruction of justice....
One does not need to read the Mueller report – I gave up on it after a few pages – to conclude that this president must go. He is a serial criminal, cruel to vulnerable people whether citizens or migrants, a race baiter and reckless with foreign issues. There is much more, but that is enough. In terms of criminal offenses, there is sufficient evidence to warrant impeachment."
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