Democrats are delighted that Special Counsel Robert Mueller will testify under subpoena on July 17th before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees. Don’t they realize that this move has the potential to backfire? Spectacularly?
There are so many reasons why this may not end well for Democrats or for Mueller.
For starters, let’s go back to Mueller’s nine minute press conference last month. Putting aside the investigation and the report itself for a moment, Mueller appeared to be completely overwhelmed. At the time, I wrote, “If you watch Mueller’s demeanor, especially when he first steps up to the podium, he appears extremely ill at ease. It’s hard to imagine that such a powerful man would be quite so nervous, but he appeared petrified. And all he had to do was read something. He gave the impression that if he had to answer a serious question, he would explode.
Historian and political commentator Mark Levin’s observation was that Mueller appeared feeble. He said, “this is not a man who would do well under seven, eight, nine hours of questioning, with the Republicans honing in on so many issues.”
Next, Mueller does not want to answer questions. He is vulnerable and has a lot to hide.
He is used to operating behind the scenes. He issues orders and, until now, has answered to no one. Not even to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. House Republicans, particularly Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and those like him, will rip off the curtain. He will be taken completely out of his comfort zone and will be expected to answer many uncomfortable questions. Here are a few.
1. Why did you accept the Special Counsel appointment when you had such obvious (and personal) conflicts of interest? (First, Mueller was interested in returning to his old job as FBI Director. President Trump turned him down the day before Rosenstein appointed him to the Special Counsel; Next, Mueller had a close long-term relationship with James Comey, whose firing triggered the Special Counsel; Last, Mueller had been involved in a financial dispute with Trump years ago over a portion of his membership fee ($15,000) at one of Trump’s golf clubs.)
2. When did you learn that President Trump had not colluded with the Russians? (Republicans will press him on this.)
3. Why did you choose only Democrats for your investigation team? (Special Counsel rules require a bipartisan team. They also require that the Special Counsel be a Washington outsider. Mueller was the ultimate Washington insider.)
4. Why did you give the strong impression during your press conference that, although there may very well have been a prosecutable case against the President, you weren’t able to draw a conclusion due to the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel rules? And, given that you were able to draw a conclusion about collusion, why couldn’t you have done so on obstruction?
(Specifically, he said: “If I had evidence, and that evidence was clear that he did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”
“Charging the President with a crime was not an option we could consider.”)
Attorney General William Barr was asked about why Mueller had failed to come to a conclusion on the question of obstruction of justice during his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 1st. He said, “We were frankly surprised that they were not going to reach a decision on obstruction and we asked them a lot about the reasoning behind this. Mueller stated three times to us in that meeting, in response to our questioning, that he emphatically was not saying that but for the OLC opinion he would have found obstruction.”
Barr made a similar remark at the press conference he held prior to the public release of the redacted Mueller Report. He told reporters, “We specifically asked him about the OLC opinion and whether or not he was taking a position that he would have found a crime but for the existence of the OLC opinion. And he made it very clear several times that was not his position.”
5. Why did you stir up impeachment fever among House Democrats during your press conference? (Mueller tossed out a not so thinly veiled call to action.)
6. Why did you ignore Hillary Clinton and her obvious crimes of obstruction of justice? Why did you ignore her collusion with Russia and Ukraine?
7. When did you realize the Steele dossier was a pack of lies? And that the FBI had obtained a warrant to spy on Carter Page using the bogus dossier as the basis of their application?
8. A DOJ court filing shows that the FBI actually began spying on Michael Flynn in January 2016 rather than December 2016 as the FBI and the Mueller report maintain. Please explain.
9. The Mueller report omits a significant sentence from a voicemail left for Michael Flynn’s attorney’s by Trump’s attorney, John Dowd, which materially changes the meaning of the message. Please explain.
10. In the opening of the report, the Mueller team ties Ukrainian businessman Konstantin Kilimnik, who worked for Paul Manafort’s lobbying firm, to Russian intelligence. The reality is that Kilimnik was a top informant for the U.S. State Department and other Western intelligence agencies as well. Please explain.
11. In Volume II, page 103, in reference to the participants in the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, you refer to “the firm that produced the Steele reporting.” Why did you intentionally omit citing the name Fusion GPS or its owner, Glenn Simpson, throughout the 448-page report?
12. Did you know that at the same time Fusion GPS was working to collect opposition research on Donald Trump for the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee it also was representing Prevezon, a Russian-based company sanctioned by the U.S. government?
13. Why did you omit the fact that Glenn Simpson was working with Natalia Veselnitskya, the so-called Russian lawyer, on the Prevezon project and that Simpson met with her before the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting that she attended with Trump campaign associates including Donald Trump, Jr.?
14. Why did you also omit the fact the Glenn Simpson was working with Rinat Akhmetshin—another attendee of the Trump Tower meeting—on the Prevezon project and that Simpson met with both Veselnitskya and Akhmetshin the day after the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting?
15. Your office scrubbed the iPhone devices used by Peter Strzok and Lisa Page after they were dismissed from the team. Is that obstruction of justice since both are subjects of ongoing congressional investigations?
16. At what point did Comey inform Trump that the campaign was under investigation since there is no indication in Comey’s own memos that he disclosed that information to the president at any time prior to March 2017?
17. Aside from Comey’s own memos, do you have additional evidence to support the allegation that the president asked Comey to drop any inquiries related to Michael Flynn?
18. The report cites numerous news articles, including a few that contain classified information sourced by anonymous government officials. As you know, it is a felony to disclose classified information, such as intercepted phone calls with foreign ambassadors under surveillance and the existence of a FISA warrant. Did you identify any of the government officials who were illegally leaking classified information to the news media?
19. Is it illegal for the president of the United States to fire the FBI director, with or without cause?
20. Is it illegal for the president of the United States to consider firing, or to fire, a special counsel?
This is not a complete list. It could go on from here. By the end of the day, we might actually start feeling sorry for Mr. Mueller…Nah.
We all know what this investigation was about. It was an unsuccessful attempt to remove President Trump from office.
Still, I do have one final question for him. If it was not your job to determine if the President had committed a crime, what have you been doing for the past 22 months?