July 23, 2019

Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller won't testify before two House committees until Wednesday morning, but the pregame show has already started on cable news. CNN's Anderson Cooper deconstructed President Trump's lies about Mueller and then had a panel of experts, including former White House counsel and Watergate star witness John Dean, preview Mueller's testimony. Dean argued that if Mueller had been the Watergate prosecutor, Richard Nixon would have gotten away with his alleged crimes.

On MSNBC, Ari Melber pointed to reports that Attorney General William Barr "is stepping in again" and trying to limit what Mueller says. And Mueller will not be "standing with the president's critics," he added. "Remember, as a legal matter, when Mueller steps in front of the world Wednesday, he will be a hostile witness under subpoena. He is prepping to be pressed and to push back."

"There are damning facts in the Mueller report, but some Democrats want more than a dry, factual presentation," Melber said. "They want to press Bob Mueller under oath to say in English what the Mueller report only said in lawyer jargon: That there is substantial evidence against Trump, that it comes from his own staff, and that it suggests he committed multiple crimes in office."

Former Solicitor General Neal Katyal told Melber he's "extremely concerned" about the reports Barr is, in his analysis, "trying to gag Mueller and trying to say that anything that's not in the report is 'presumptively privileged.' And you know, Mueller is so by-the-book, I suspect that will influence him greatly, what Barr and others are trying to say in terms of squelching him." At the same time, Mueller's "by-the-book" nature could also work against Trump, Katyal suggested, because "the book's actually changed" since Mueller turned in his report, specifically because Barr has since said he could have reached a conclusion about whether Trump has committed crimes.

Whether Mueller would have said Trump committed crimes is "exactly the kind of question the Democrats should be leading the hearing with," Katyal said. Melber said Katyal was engaging in "a little bit of wishful thinking," but Katyal said given Barr's comments, Mueller "absolutely should go further" than what's in his report, "and indeed I don't see how he can't answer that question." Peter Weber

9:13 p.m.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), like everyone else, has some regrets.

He let the country know about about one during Tuesday's Democratic primary debate in Charleston, South Carolina. Former Vice President Joe Biden went after Sanders for his past gun control record, which Biden doesn't think is strong enough.

Sanders was then asked about previously voting for the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act which shields gun manufacturers from liability in shootings. Instead of immediately pushing back, he admitted he considers that one of the bad votes among the thousands of his votes he's cast during his time in Congress, adding that he now has a D-minus rating from the National Rifle Association.

He then went on to point out that Biden also has what he considers bad votes under his belt, like his support for the Iraq War, which Sanders didn't back. Tim O'Donnell

9:13 p.m.

The shouts of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), the screeches of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and the shrieks of former Vice President Joe Biden ricocheted around the stage during Tuesday night's Democratic debate in South Carolina.

Right from the start, it was a raucous affair, with the candidates consistently — and loudly — interrupting each other and ignoring the time limits to respond. At one cacophonous point, it sounded like all of the candidates were trying to answer a question, but no one could understand what they were saying. When things settled down a bit, billionaire investor Tom Steyer tried to get a word in, but was scolded by Sanders; later, an annoyed Sanders tried to get former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg to stop talking by saying, "Hellllooo!" It didn't work.

Biden cracked the code about 30 minutes into the debate, saying, "I guess the only way to do this is jump in and speak twice as long as you should." He then attacked Steyer for once investing in private prisons, said Sanders hasn't passed "much of anything" during his time in the Senate, and refused to yield any of his time to the other candidates. "I'm gonna talk," he snapped, which got the crowd cheering. Expect none of these people to have a voice tomorrow. Catherine Garcia

8:59 p.m.

The billionaire former mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, has been slammed by his Democratic primary opponents for allegedly "buy[ing] his way into the debate[s]." On Tuesday night, he nearly admitted to buying a whole lot more than just that.

The Freudian slip came as Bloomberg was bragging about spending $100 million in the 2018 midterm elections to back 21 of the 40 Democrats who were elected to the House. "All of the new Democrats that came in, put Nancy Pelosi in charge, and gave the Congress the ability to control this president, I bought — I got them," Bloomberg said, quickly correcting himself.

Bloomberg is self-funding his campaign, the most expensive in presidential history; he broke the $500 million mark in ad spending on Monday. Read more about the former mayor's possible attempts to "buy an election" here at The Week. Jeva Lange

8:43 p.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden pulled a Joe Namath during Tuesday night's debate in Charleston, South Carolina.

Biden, the frontrunner in the Palmetto State, was quiet for the first few minutes of the debate before he was asked about his shrinking lead ahead of Saturday's state primary. The vice president, though, wasn't lacking any confidence about his chances, despite having previously described South Carolina as his campaign's firewall.

He said he was determined to win the state and would maintain his support among African American voters, but he eventually went into a full-on Namath-style guarantee when he was asked if he would drop out in a scenario where he didn't emerge victorious. Biden never answered that question directly, opting only to say "I will win South Carolina."Tim O'Donnell

8:37 p.m.

With Super Tuesday looming, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has cemented himself as the man to beat in the Democratic primary. During Tuesday night's debate in South Carolina, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren rose to the challenge in her most direct attack on her progressive colleague to date. "The way I see this is, Bernie is winning right now because the Democratic party is a progressive party and progressive ideas are popular ideas," Warren began. She then added in no uncertain terms that "Bernie and I agree on a lot of things, but I think I would make a better president than Bernie."

Warren explained that "getting a progressive agenda enacted is going to be really hard and it's going to take someone who digs into the details to make it happen." She went on to site her record on battling big banks and health care, emphasizing that "I dug in. I did the work. And then Bernie's team trashed me for it."

As Sanders shook his head in disagreement, Warren finished: "Progressives have got one shot and we need to spend it with a leader who will get something done." Jeva Lange

8:24 p.m.

Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg's campaign manager Mike Schmuhl wants to be realistic about Super Tuesday.

In a memo sent Tuesday, Schmuhl said the goal for next week when voters in 14 states, including Texas and California, head to the polls is not to win, but "minimize" frontrunner Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) margin of victory. But, fear not, Buttigieg supporters, that doesn't mean the campaign is giving up. Schmuhl added that the subsequent Tuesdays on March 10 and 17 are where the mayor really has a chance to shine, pointing out that while Super Tuesday accounts for 34 percent of available delegates, those two voting slates account for 28 percent.

FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver thinks the memo is admirable in that it sets "realistic expectations," but he also argues it means Buttigieg might eventually have to rely on a contested convention to win the nomination, because without a healthy amount of delegates on Super Tuesday it will become incredibly difficult to win outright. Tim O'Donnell

8:16 p.m.

A juror in the Roger Stone trial is setting the record straight.

In an op-ed for The Washington Post published Tuesday night, Seth Cousins wrote about the allegations being leveled against the jury. Last year, they found Stone, a longtime friend and adviser to President Trump, guilty of obstruction, witness tampering, and lying to Congress. Since then, Trump has accused the foreperson, who ran for Congress as a Democrat in 2012, of being "totally biased," and Stone's lawyers have claimed he did not have a fair trial.

There is a "striking irony" to this, Cousins wrote, because the foreperson "was actually one of the strongest advocates for the rights of the defendant and for a rigorous process. She expressed skepticism at some of the government's claims and was one of the last people to vote to convict on the charge that took most of our deliberation time." The jury followed all instructions, examined evidence, and made sure each voice was heard. "Roger Stone received a fair trial," Cousins said. "He was found guilty based on the evidence by a jury that respected his rights and viewed the government's claims skeptically. Our jury valued truth, plain and simple."

An estimated 1.5 million Americans serve on juries every year, and "elected officials have no business attacking citizens for performing their civic duty," Cousins said. "When the president attacks our jury's foreperson, he is effectively attacking every American who takes time off work, arranges child care, and otherwise disrupts their life temporarily to participate in this civic duty. His attacks denigrate both our service and the concept of equal justice under U.S. law." Read the entire op-ed at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

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