Leslie Marshall: Mueller’s testimony disappoints anti-Trump Dems – But he still makes important points

DNC chair: Mueller report laid out very serious allegations

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez reacts to Robert Mueller’s congressional hearing on ‘The Story.’

Many Democrats hoped that former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony at two televised House committee hearings Wednesday would be a riveting performance that would galvanize public opinion against President Trump.

These Democrats were disappointed. Instead of getting a former special prosecutor who boldly swept into the congressional hearing rooms like Superman fighting for truth, justice and the American way, they got mild-mannered Clark Kent testifying methodically for about seven hours.

Most American’s haven’t read Mueller’s 448-page report that examined Russia’s interference in our 2016 presidential election and allegations that President Trump obstructed the Mueller probe. They likely never will.


Just as a lot more people watch movies based on books than read the books, many Democrats hoped Mueller’s testimony would play out like a courtroom drama. They wanted Mueller to deliver an Academy Award-winning performance as the brilliant prosecutor dynamically laying out the case against Trump in crisp and compelling detail.

The goal of Democrats was clear: convince millions of Americans that Trump is guilty of wrongdoing and ought to be impeached, or at least defeated for reelection next year.

But instead of a fiery and passionate prosecutor, the TV audience saw the understated Mueller sounding like a somewhat befuddled college professor. He often asked for questions to be repeated, spoke haltingly and at times seemed confused and unfamiliar with the findings of his own report.

Liberal Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe – a sharp critic of President Trump – tweeted: “Much as I hate to say it, this morning’s hearing was a disaster. Far from breathing life into his damning report, the tired Robert Mueller sucked the life out of it. The effort to save democracy and the rule of law from this lawless president has been set back, not advanced.”

But while Mueller’s performance left a lot to be desired, it’s an exaggeration to call it a disaster. And while the former special prosecutor didn’t say anything new, the fact that he spoke to a TV audience of millions will amplify the message of his report, which was made public in April.

In the morning hearing held by the House Judiciary Committee – focusing on allegations of obstruction of justice by Trump – Republicans were more focused on the integrity of Mueller and his team of prosecutors and investigators than on the evidence the Mueller team had gathered.

But instead of a fiery and passionate prosecutor, the TV audience saw the understated Mueller sounding like a somewhat befuddled college professor. He often asked for questions to be repeated, spoke haltingly and at times seemed confused and unfamiliar with the findings of his own report.

In fact, committee Republican acted more like a team of Trump defense attorneys than elected officials in search of the truth. They questioned why Mueller even investigated Trump for possible obstruction.

As he had said he would, Mueller stuck closely to the findings of his report, refusing to give his opinions, analysis or additional facts about matters he investigated, even when pressed by House members.

In his report dealing with accusations of obstruction of justice against Trump, Mueller wrote that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” Mueller stood by those words Wednesday.

It would seem that Republicans forgot that Mueller didn’t take it upon himself to investigate the very real interference by Russia on behalf of candidate Trump, which Mueller convincingly documented in his report. Mueller carried out the job he was hired to do by the U.S. Justice Department.

And Republicans also seemed to forget that Mueller is a Republican and was appointed to serve in high-level Justice Department positions by three Republican presidents – Ronald Reagan and both Presidents Bush. He served with distinction as FBI director following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and years earlier volunteered to fight in the Vietnam War as a Marine officer, where he was highly decorated and wounded in battle.

Republican claims that Mueller is a partisan Democrat out to get President Trump are absurd – laughable, in fact.

And while Mueller’s testimony was not the most exciting show on TV, the former special counsel made some good points that all Americans should be aware of. Mueller said that:

  • He did not exonerate President Trump of wrongdoing, even though the president has claimed this repeatedly. In fact, Attorney General William Barr and then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein were the ones who concluded that – based on the Mueller report – Trump should not be charged with obstruction of justice. As Barr wrote in letter to members of Congress March 24, “evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”
  • Russia’s efforts to interfere in our 2016 election were a serious challenge to our democracy and were designed to help Trump be elected president.
  • Trump’s campaign originally welcomed Russian assistance.
  • Mueller’s investigation was not a witch hunt, and was impeded by lies told by people associated with Trump. When he was asked by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., in the House Intelligence Committee hearing if it was “fair to say” that Trump’s written answers to a list of Mueller’s questions had been incomplete and not always truthful, Mueller said “generally.”
  • A member of Congress could be arrested and imprisoned if convicted of making false statements. 
  • Trump used the official powers of the presidency to pressure witnesses not to turn against him.
  • Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen engaged in criminal conduct – for which Cohen is now serving time in prison – at the direction of Trump.

Polling shows that Russia’s interference into our election and the allegations of obstruction of justice by Trump and his campaign are not major topics of concern among voters heading into the 2020 elections. 

A Fox News poll published Wednesday, before Mueller testified, showed that 49 percent of respondents said there is “no chance at all” that Mueller’s testimony would change how they feel about Trump.

The same poll shows that 42 percent of voters support impeaching President Trump and removing him from office. Another 5 percent of voters want Trump impeached but not removed from office, while 45 percent oppose impeachment.

House Democrats are now faced with a decision over whether to begin impeachment proceedings against the president.

Democrats have the votes to impeach if they stand united in the House. But only the Senate can remove a president from office after a trial, if 67 members of the 100-member body vote to do so. Since Democrats and allied independents hold only 47 seats in the Senate, there is virtually no chance they could get 20 Republican votes to send Trump packing.

Still, I don’t think an impeachment trial would be a bad things for Democrats We’d get a national forum to expose Trump as being unfit for the office he holds, helping to convince voters to elect a Democrat as president next year.


So where do Dems go from here? Onward and upward.

We Democrats must unite, get legislation passed on key issues like immigration and health care, and prepare for the 2020 elections. Our goal should be holding our majority in the House, gaining majority of control in the Senate, and sending President Trump into retirement. Hopefully, Mueller’s testimony will persuade more Americans to join this effort.


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