I am not going to re-litigate the entire 7 hour “Mueller experience.” That’s not what this is about. It turned out better than I had feared, but not as good as I had hoped for.
Actually, I was well pleased with the afternoon session in front of the Intelligence committee. I had written a couple of days ago that this was the session I was most interested in, since the public never signed on for an “obstruction” investigation, Mueller was hired to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election, and I was glad to see the remind everyone of Russia’s game, and tie the Trump mob to it with barbed wire.
But the Nadler led House Judiciary committee fell flat on their faces. They had a three hour chance to provide the entire nation watching on television with a walking, talking example of obstruction of justice, and they let it slip through their fingers. And it wasn’t like they didn’t have sufficient time to prepare to execute a very simple maneuver, en masse.
Robert Mueller was always going to be a reluctant witness, in front of both committees. Mueller made it clear in his nine minute press statement that his report was his testimony, and he had no interest in saying anything more. The negotiations with Mueller took longer than most contested divorces, and they still ended up having to issue a subpoena to ensure his presence. It was already known that Mueller had no interest in responding to any question whose answer was not already in his report.
But then, lo and behold, the Democrats received a gift wrapped golden goose. And what did they do? They cut it up and barbecued it for lunch. Two days before Mueller’s appearance, a letter from the DJ surfaced, basically turning Mueller into the character “The Gimp” from Pulp Fiction, complete with choker collar and ball gag. Mueller was not to stray from the answers in his report. He was not to discuss uncharged persons. He was not to discuss internal deliberations, blah, blah, blah.
This was a godsend for Mueller, as it gave him a whole cornucopia of excuses to use to refrain from answering questions he already didn’t want to answer anyway. But it was also a godsend for the Democrats, but apparently they didn’t see it, or at least not soon enough.
Now, not only am I not a lawyer, but I don’t play one on TV. Or the movies either. Or even summer stock theater. But even a complete nebbish like me knows how every reticent reply from Mueller should have been handled, right from the first questioner;
Q: Special Counsel Mueller. Was there any difference of opinion when it came to the question of whether or not to subpoena President Trump?
A: I am not going to answer that question, since it involves matters of internal discussion and deliberation.
A: OK, I see. What you mean is that Attorney General Barr has ordered you not to answer a question that falls well within your purview and you are qualified to answer?
BOOM! It really doesn’t matter what Mueller’s response to that is, since the questioner has just given Mueller his excuse, whether he wants it or not, and that’s what the audience is going to remember. That is the response from hell for Trump, Barr, and the entire GOP, because it places the blame for Mueller not answering a question squarely where it belongs – on Barr’s and (by obvious extension) Trump’s shoulders. And that’s just once. Mueller refused to answer questions more than 190 times, questions from both sides.
After two hours of that same repeated, almost “No collusion. No obstruction” refrain, what do you think the chances are that Billy and Betty Dumbleschitz are turning to each other and saying, “Why can’t he answer any of these simple questions? What are Trump and Barr trying to hide?!?
And it gets even better than that, because it would have forced the GOP members to change out their base questions. Several times in later questioning, GOP members came right out and said, I know you can’t answer these questions Director Mueller, but I want to get them on the record. And then they’d ask totally partisan, conspiracy theory, bullshit questions, knowing Mueller wouldn’t answer, but just wanting to plant them in people’s minds. Would they still ask a question if they already knew that every time Mueller would respond with “I refuse to answer that question, blah, blah…”?
Would that have moved the public opinion needle on impeachment, the Democrat’s ultimate goal? I honestly don’t know. But it would have at least knocked those smug smiles off of Barr and Trump’s faces, as well as given His Lowness a taste of his own medicine where constant repetition was concerned. All I know is that I really wish the Democrats had realized what a solid gold nugget they had in their hands. And then used it.