On July 17, the nation will endure yet another congressional circus when Robert Mueller – fresh from wrapping up the most scandalous investigation in American history – testifies before the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees. House Democrats, playing to the gallery, hail Mueller’s agreement to appear as a victory, though it is already clear that the former special counsel is going to say nothing that advances their phony case against President Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, Republicans on the committee should be preparing an extensive list of questions for Mueller, and the answers to those questions may turn the upcoming hearing into a very uncomfortable experience for the president’s enemies.
Obstruction and the OLC Opinion
It seems likely that most of the questions asked of Mueller, by either side, will go unanswered or be met with “I refer you to page … of my report.” Democrats, of course, have not read Mr. Mueller’s report, so perhaps they plan to have its principal author read it to them.
The most significant question Mueller will be asked is why he declined to make a decision on the issue of the president’s alleged obstruction of justice. Democrats claim that Mueller’s hand was forced by a long-standing Office of Legal Counsel opinion that a sitting president cannot be criminally indicted.
In his report, the special counsel alluded to that opinion but Attorney General William Barr, in his own testimony before Congress, stated very clearly that, on no less than three occasions, Mueller confirmed that he had not felt constrained by the OLC opinion.
The former special counsel is not likely to put himself in the position of testifying now that, but for the opinion, he would have recommended charges. To do so would be to infer that the AG had lied to Congress. As a consequence of that, Mueller himself will be dragged further into the finger-pointing and recriminations that have followed the release of his report.
Republicans Have Many Questions
Republicans on the committees will – or should – be looking for answers to a great many questions about Mueller’s personnel decisions, what exculpatory evidence he uncovered, and why he chose to exclude it from his report. Additionally, those Republicans will want to know at what point in time the office of special counsel (OSC) determined that there was no credible evidence of the president’s alleged cooperation with Russian officials.
At one point, Mueller had as many as 19 attorneys on his team, and almost all of them were known to have been regular contributors to Democratic Party candidates or to the party itself. Andrew Weissmann, who Mueller picked as his number two man on the special counsel team, is well known as a staunch Clintonite and a critic of President Trump.
According to DOJ documents obtained by Judicial Watch, Weissmann, who reportedly attended Hillary Clinton’s post-election party in 2016, led the hiring effort for the Mueller’s special counsel team.
In 2017, Obama-holdover Sally Yates was acting attorney general when Trump signed an executive order temporarily banning travel to the U.S. from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Yates instructed the DOJ not to enforce the order and she was fired as a result. In an email to Yates, Weissmann wrote: “I am so proud. And in awe. Thank you so much. All my deepest respects.”
Then, of course, there were FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. Both were assigned leading roles on the special counsel and both hated the president. Republicans might ask Mueller if he had anyone at all on his team who did not despise Donald Trump.
Mueller appears to have been either entirely unconcerned with the many politically-charged conflicts of interest surrounding his staffing choices or he deliberately put together a team of anti-Trump, pro-Democrat attorneys to investigate the president.
Did Mueller Ignore Potential Crimes?
Given, also, that the OSC was granted the authority to refer for investigation and potential prosecution any other possible crimes it uncovered during the course of its probe, Mueller could also be questioned about his knowledge of the FBI’s counter-surveillance operation targeting the Trump campaign. An extensive list of crimes may have been committed by FBI, DOJ and Obama administration officials during that operation, including – but not limited to – illegally unmasking American citizens and fraudulently obtaining one or more warrants from a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
The Democrats who have demanded Mueller’s testimony have put themselves in a no-win situation: Should Mueller, out of nowhere, reveal some damning evidence against the president that was not in his report, he will be unable to retain any credibility. More than likely, the former Bush-appointed FBI Director whose tenure was extended by President Obama will stick with his previously stated position that his report should serve as his testimony.
At the same time, potential questions from Republicans assault the credibility of the entire Russia conspiracy theory and Mueller’s part in it. Should the latter choose to answer those questions, the Democrats’ push to impeach the president will look even more like a purely political act of revenge than it does today. If Mueller refuses to answer Republicans’ questions, he will simply confirm the suspicions of the president and of almost every conservative in America: That the entire Russia collusion story was a politically-motivated lie that turned into an attempted coup.
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