Mueller: Was his testimony a dud?
At one time, Robert Mueller’s damning congressional testimony would have brought the country “to a grinding halt,” said Adam Serwer in TheAtlantic.com. Instead, the press joined Trump and his defenders in declaring last week’s hearings a dud. Supposedly, “the optics” were bad because Mueller sounded tired and his deliberately worded answers were “boring.” But why are we judging Mueller by Trump’s “reality show standards?” The substance of his testimony was devastating: Mueller confirmed that Trump encouraged and benefited from Russian election interference in 2016 and eagerly exploited documents illegally stolen by Russian hackers. Once in office, Trump and his subordinates lied repeatedly to cover up their dozens of conversations and meetings with Russians, with the president trying to fire Mueller, ordering aides to lie, and actively attempting to derail an investigation into an “attack on American democracy.” In effect, Mueller told Americans that “the president is a crook.” And yet the takeaway is that a 74-year-old man looked kind of old?
Face it, Mueller fizzled, said Rich Lowry in NationalReview.com. Democrats and the media built up Mueller’s testimony as the second coming of the Watergate hearings. But Mueller didn’t tell us much of anything that wasn’t already in his initial report. And instead of making the political case against Trump for themselves, Democrats have been using Mueller as a “crutch,” hoping that he would someday deliver a coup de grâce against Trump. It’s “not the job of a special counsel, who under the regulations is supposed to act like a typical U.S. attorney, to give a dramatic, passionate, ratings-grabbing TV rendition of his work.”
Mueller handled his testimony—and the entire investigation—like the cautious conservative he truly is, said Jonathan Chait in NYMag.com, and Republicans used that against him. Mueller tried to “place himself above the fray, by refusing to call a crime a crime or to recommend impeachment.” That allowed Attorney General William Barr “to mischaracterize his findings” and emboldened Republicans to dismiss “all the damning facts he produced” as partisan smears. Mueller deserves more credit than he’s gotten, said Andrew Egger in TheBulwark.com. Instead of the “Trump-deranged witch-hunter” or a “messianic, giant-slaying #Resistance hero,” he proved himself a dedicated public servant who delivered the facts without grandstanding. “Don’t blame him if we can’t handle the rest.”