Ding-Dong! The witch hunt is dead!
After nearly three years, Russiagate is lifeless, and Special Counsel Robert Swan Mueller III killed it.
The former FBI director’s stumbling, stammering appearances Wednesday before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees provided a rare moment of bipartisanship. Democrats and Republicans were shocked to see the Vietnam War hero, Purple Heart recipient, and veteran federal lawman as adrift as a helium balloon in a hurricane as he struggled to answer many questions about the Mueller report and dodged others. Thursday’s New York Post summed it up: “Bumbling Bob Bombs.”
Early on, Mueller called the president “Trimp.” Congressmen reminded him six times to speak into the microphone. He looked lost while navigating a three-ring binder stuffed with his eponymous missive’s 448 pages. Mueller asked 48 times for questions to be repeated and evaded 198 queries. Passages of Mueller’s report sounded like breaking news to him. Late in the day, he grasped fruitlessly for a synonym for “collusion” for 28 seconds until Representative Peter Welch (D., Vt.) suggested “conspiracy.” This word should roll like a tater tot off any G-man’s tongue.
“Much as I hate to say it, this morning’s hearing was a disaster,” Harvard Law professor and Trump foe Laurence Tribe conceded via Twitter. “Far from breathing life into his damning report, the tired Robert Mueller sucked the life out of it.” Obama’s campaign strategist David Axelrod simply said, “This is very, very painful.”
Gaffes aside, the substance of Mueller’s statements shot holes into his own report, like Al Capone emptying a machine gun.
• With help from Representative John Ratcliffe (R., Texas), Mueller mowed down as totally irrelevant the notion that his inquiry “does not exonerate” the president. “Can you give an example other than Donald Trump where the Justice Department determined an investigated person was not exonerated because their innocence was not conclusively determined?” Ratcliffe asked.
Mueller answered: “I cannot, but this is a unique situation.”
“I agree with Chairman Nadler this morning when he said Donald Trump is not above the law,” Ratcliffe responded. “But he damn sure should not be below the law, which is where volume 2 of this report puts him.”
Later, Representative Michael Turner (R., Ohio) dramatically stacked the U.S. Constitution, U.S. Code, and a criminal-law textbook as he schooled Mueller on the presumption of innocence and equal justice under law.
“No one can be exonerated,” Turner explained. “Mr. Mueller, you can’t be exonerated. In fact, in our criminal-justice system, there is no power or authority to exonerate. . . . There is no Office of Exoneration.” Turner added: “The [Mueller Report’s] statement about exoneration is misleading, and it’s meaningless.”
• Representative Steve Chabot (R., Ohio) asked Mueller about Fusion GPS, the Hillary Clinton–funded opposition-research group that hired former British spy Christopher Steele. His lurid brief brims with Kremlin-tied, anti-Trump disinformation. Democrats used this phantasmagoria to launch the Russia hoax. Astonishingly, Mueller admitted, “I’m not familiar with that.”
• Mueller also confessed that he attended “very few” of the 500 or so interviews with witnesses.
Mueller evidently was a SCINO: Special Counsel in Name Only. This escapade’s real ringleader seems to have been Andrew Weissmann (who was a guest at Hillary’s Election Night cry-in) or one of the 13 other partisan Democrats on Mueller’s 19-member prosecutorial staff. Mueller’s 74 percent Democratic inner circle included twelve Democratic donors, two of whom maxed out to Hillary . Prosecutor Jeannie Rhee once lawyered for the Clinton Foundation!
Mueller was something between oblivious and ho-hum about these details. He said about Weissmann’s presence at Hillary’s weepfest, “I don’t know when I found that out.” As for Rhee representing the Clinton’s slush fund, “No,” he did not know about this before she joined his squad.
Mueller said that during his 25 years “in this business” (although he joined the Justice Department in 1976 — 43 years ago), “I have not had occasion once to ask somebody about their political affiliation. It is not done.” Fine. But did Mueller not read his prosecutors’ résumés? Was he totally ignorant of news reports about their staunchly pro-Democrat and pro-Clinton activities? And if Mueller simply aimed “to hire those individuals that could do that job,” as he testified, could he not find even one qualified Republican attorney — at least to give his team a pastie of bipartisanship?
This probe’s rampant political bias was underscored vividly by Aaron Zebley, the lawyer who spoon-fed Mueller relevant passages of the report that bears his name. Zebley previously represented Justin Cooper, the computer whiz who installed the notorious, illegal server in Hillary’s mansion in Chappaqua, N.Y. Cooper also obliterated her mobile devices with a hammer. Zebley assisted Mueller’s inquisition of the man who defeated Hillary. If this is not a naked, screaming conflict of interest, then I am a former First Lady of the United States.
Still, according to this fervent band of pro-Hillary brothers and sisters, “the Special Counsel confirmed that the Russian government sponsored efforts to illegally interfere with the 2016 presidential election but did not find that the Trump campaign or other Americans colluded in those schemes.”
Regarding obstruction of justice, Mueller corrected his 10:53 a.m. misstatement to the Judiciary Committee by telling the Intelligence Committee at 1:13 p.m.: “We did not reach a determination as to whether the president committed a crime.”
All told, Mueller turned Russiagate, his report, and Democrats’ impeachment lust into a bonfire of the inanities. “It’s time for the curtain to close on the Russia hoax,” said California’s Devin Nunes, the Intelligence Committee’s ranking Republican. “The conspiracy theory is dead.”
Wednesday’s biggest winner said it best. “The Democrats had nothing,” President Trump told journalists on the White House lawn. “And now they have less than nothing.”
Michael Malarkey contributed research to this opinion piece.