Now that former special counsel Robert Mueller has testified before two House committees regarding his 22-month investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, the most significant observation to be made is whether the Democrats’ case for the impeachment of President Donald Trump has been strengthened. The answer is a resounding no.
More than anything, Trump’s political enemies had hoped that Mueller would give them some compelling soundbites. They were counting on an unambiguous statement to the effect that one or more of the president’s statements or actions met the legal standard of obstruction of justice. More than likely, they were assuming that some of Mueller’s Democrat inquisitors could get him to speculate on the president’s motives at certain points during the investigation.
The former FBI director did none of those things. True to his word, he refused to speculate, and he declined to comment on anything that was not written in the special counsel report. Most notably, he refused – on two occasions – to agree that certain actions by the president satisfied the legal elements of criminal obstruction of justice.
Did Mueller Read His Own Report?
Hardly was the first of two July 24 hearings underway when it became apparent that Mueller had not read the report most commonly associated with his name. It seems likely that individuals tasked with writing the report had provided their boss with a summary – probably highlighting specific aspects of the investigation – but that Mueller had not read the entire thing for himself.
On countless occasions during the hearing, Mueller asked that his questioners direct him to specific pages while, at other times, he simply stated that he stood by whatever the report said. He often stumbled and stammered, and at times he had difficulty in understanding the questions. There was little indication that the man appointed to head up the special counsel team was any more than vaguely familiar with the 480-page document laying out its conclusions.
Predictably, Democrats on both the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees had nothing of substance to ask Mueller. They quoted parts of his report and solicited speculative answers from him, which he refused to provide.
Defeated Schiff Talks Ethics
Adam Schiff (D-CA), who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, appears to have conceded that there simply is no conclusive evidence of criminal wrongdoing on the part of the president. As if to save face, the Democrat spent most of his time during the second hearing delivering a lecture on ethical behavior, lies, and patriotism. Apparently, Schiff is now an expert on ethics, having insisted – for two years – that he had “more than circumstantial evidence” that the president had colluded with the Russian government to steal the 2016 election. To this day, the congressman has failed to produce that evidence while attempting, himself, to conspire with the Russians to obtain non-existent compromising photographs of Trump.
Republicans had an opportunity to expose the one-sided nature of the Mueller investigation and they took it: A number of GOP members peppered the witness with questions about the origins of the Russia investigation. Mueller refused to answer any of these questions. He would not speak about the so-called Steele dossier or the fact that several individuals with ties to the US intelligence community attempted to solicit incriminating information from former Trump campaign advisors Carter Page and George Papadopoulos.
Mueller refused to comment on ties between the Clinton campaign, Fusion GPS, and Christopher Steele. He would not acknowledge any possibility of political motivations behind the Russia investigation. Indeed, it appeared that he did not for a second have any concerns about the veracity of the claims that underpinned the FBI’s counterintelligence operation.
Republican Suspicions Confirmed?
Mueller’s silence on these matters only serves to affirm the suspicion, among the president’s supporters both within Congress and across the country, that the entire Russian collusion story was fabricated for political reasons. While Democrats focused mostly on the issue of obstruction, they failed to get the former special counsel to confirm their accusations. If there were winners and losers in these hearings, the losers were the Democrats and the winners were the Republicans – whose unanswered questions struck at the heart of the investigation’s credibility.
Beyond that, the American people continue to lose as the fallout from the FBI and special counsel probes continue to obstruct the process of government and polarize the nation. Ironically, the Russians are also big winners because they themselves could not have hoped to sow more discord and confusion than the Democrats have done by continuing this farce.