Robert Mueller is scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday morning about his investigation into Russian interference and Donald Trump. Democrats are hoping to complete a Hail Mary, trapping the former special counsel into saying that he’d have pressed charges if Trump weren’t President. That of course isn’t true, because Mueller and the DOJ have both made it clear that the President’s immunity did not factor into the decision.
No matter, Jerry Nadler and crew still hope to produce some kind of viral moment. The smart money is on that not happening, although you can bet the media will do everything they can to push mundane pronouncements as significant.
On the eve of his testimony, Robert Mueller has suddenly pulled a fast one though. Specifically, he’s now going to bring his deputy from the investigation to the hearing to answer some questions for him. This per The Daily Caller.
Former special counsel Robert Mueller asked Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee to swear in his longtime deputy as a witness at a congressional hearing Wednesday, according to multiple reports.
Mueller asked that Aaron Zebley, who served as deputy on the special counsel’s probe, be sworn in as a witness in order to address any questions that he is not able to answer, according to a source familiar with the matter, The New York Times and CNN reported.
Mueller is scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee for three hours and before the House Intelligence Committee for two hours Wednesday. He will be pressed for details of his 22-month investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia and whether President Donald Trump attempted to obstruct the probe.
The obvious question everyone should be asking is why?
Robert Mueller is supposedly the smartest among us, or so I’ve been told. An old pro who could can get to the bottom of anything. This is his report being testified on. Is he not intimately familiar with it? Does he not know everything that’s in his own report? What information could his deputy offer that Mueller shouldn’t already be aware of?
The answer may boil down to what some of us have suspected for a long time.
It's going to be fun tomorrow when people who thought a Hercules Poirot-type character was running the anti-Trump Russia investigation discover that it was a lot closer to George Costanza working the Penske file. https://t.co/MpzFef03pF
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) July 23, 2019
In other words, Mueller may not be the genius he’s been portrayed as and may have been more of a figurehead in the investigation. There have been rumors for a while that figures like Andrew Weissmann and Aaron Zebley were given wide latitude and you can see shifts in the style of the report that bare out the idea that it wasn’t Mueller’s conclusions being written down at all times. There was also the episode prior to the release of the report where unnamed members of the investigation leaked to the press that they disagreed with Mueller’s findings on obstruction, namely that he didn’t recommend charges. The schisms within Mueller’s team were obvious to see, even if the details were much harder to discern.
This last minute move has rightly got Republicans incensed.
Republicans pushed back on Mueller’s request, calling on Democrats to leave Zebley off the witness stand.
“If Democrats believe it is the special counsel’s responsibility to testify to his report, they have no ground for outsourcing that duty at the expense of our committee’s integrity,” Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the Judiciary panel, said in a statement.
GOP Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, who sits on the Judiciary Committee and has been an outspoken critic of Mueller’s probe, was the first lawmaker to reveal that Democrats were considering allowing Zebley to testify.
“You don’t get to change the rules right before kickoff, especially after a 22 month, $30 million investigation,” Jordan said on Twitter.
There is no logical reason that Mueller needs to bring a tag along to answer questions for him if he actually did his job. Would any other witness be allowed to do that? I can’t think of any precedent for such. This testimony is supposed to be Mueller’s words, not some deputy. The only explanation is that Mueller doesn’t even know what’s in his own report and that’s actually perfectly believable given his bizarre press conference a few months ago.
Another factor here is that the DOJ has already told Zebley he’s not allowed to testify privately. Now, at the eleventh hour, he’s going to testify publicly? Is he defying the DOJ here? Nothing would surprise me at this point.
Unfortunately, Republicans do not control the committee, so it appears Jerry Nadler was happy to give into Mueller’s request in the hope that Zebley will drop a bombshell. I still don’t see that happening, but this game playing by Mueller once again reinforces that he’s not the straight shooter so many Republicans insisted he was.
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