On Oct. 28, 2013, President Barack Obama and James Comey participate in the installation ceremony for Mr. Comey as FBI director at the bureau’s Washington headquarters. PHOTO: CHARLES DHARAPAK/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Former special counsel’s Robert Mueller’s weakened state came as a shock to most of us as he sat before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees on Wednesday to answer questions about his investigation. Although he refused to answer most questions and deflected others, his testimony provided some key information.
We learned that the stated reason for the appointment of the special counsel, which was to evaluate the extent of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and to determine if candidate Trump conspired with Russia to defeat Hillary Clinton, was not it’s true purpose. Mueller’s refusal to address questions about the genesis of the investigation, the FBI’s actions, and the Steele dossier combined with the final report’s failure to address those issues, revealed an important truth. The Mueller investigation was about covering up the unethical/illegal actions taken by top FBI and DOJ officials to prevent Trump from winning the presidency and once elected, their efforts to sabotage his ability to govern. It was an attempt to draw attention away from the misconduct of former FBI officials including James Comey, Peter Strzok, Andrew McCabe, Lisa Page and James Baker and to cast suspicion onto President Trump.
The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel wrote an excellent editorial entitled “What Mueller Was Trying to Hide,” in which she argues that the investigation was about protecting the actual miscreants in the collusion hoax. Strassel wrote:
The most notable aspect of the Mueller report was always what it omitted: the origins of this mess…The Mueller report authors studiously wrote around the dossier, mentioning it only in perfunctory terms. The report ignored Mr. Steele’s paymaster, Fusion GPS, and its own ties to Russians. It also ignored Fusion’s paymaster, the Clinton campaign, and the ugly politics behind the dossier hit job. Mr. Mueller’s testimony this week put to rest any doubt that this sheltering was deliberate.
In his opening statement he declared that he would not “address questions about the opening of the FBI’s Russia investigation, which occurred months before my appointment, or matters related to the so-called Steele Dossier.” The purpose of those omissions was obvious, as those two areas go to the heart of why the nation has been forced to endure years of collusion fantasy.
She points out that Mueller refused to discuss the dossier because it “predated his tenure and is the subject of a Justice Department investigation.” Both excuses are dishonest. “Nearly everything Mr. Mueller investigated predated his tenure, and there’s no reason the Justice Department probe bars Mr. Mueller from providing a straightforward, factual account of his team’s handling of the dossier.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) questioned Mueller about why his report failed to address these issues. His exchange with the former special counsel was one of the highlights of the hearing during which he answered all of Gaetz’ with some variation of “not my purview.”
Gaetz asked questions such as: “Director Mueller, can you state with confidence that the Steele dossier was not part of a Russian disinformation campaign?” and “Did Russians really tell that to Christopher Steele, or did he just make it up and was he lying to the FBI?”
Mueller said those subjects predated his investigation by ten months. Gaetz quickly pointed out that Paul Manafort’s alleged crimes predated him as well. “The Steele dossier predated the Attorney General and he didn’t have any problem answering questions.” Gaetz said that when Sen. Cornyn asked William Barr the same question, Barr replied, “No, I can’t state that with confidence and that’s one of the areas I’m reviewing. I’m concerned about it and I don’t think it’s entirely speculative.”
Gaetz managed to shine the light on the most fundamental truth of all. A non-verified, bogus document, paid for by the DNC and the Clinton campaign, with funds funneled through the (DNC allied) Perkins Coie law firm, whose principal hired Fusion GPS, was used to produce a hit piece on candidate Donald Trump. That hit piece was used to try to reverse the results of a lawful election. And that an investigation which fails to address the dossier cannot be considered credible.
Here is the full, five minute exchange.
The other glaring omission from the report were the actions taken by FBI and DOJ officials. Mueller, predictably, refused to answer questions on this topic as well. Strassel writes:
Then again, how could he? The Mueller team, rather than question the FBI’s actions, went out of its way to build on them. That’s how we ended up with tortured plea agreements for process crimes from figures like former Trump aide George Papadopoulos and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. They were peripheral figures in an overhyped drama, who nonetheless had to be scalped to legitimize the early actions of Mr. Comey & Co. Mr. Mueller inherited the taint, and his own efforts were further tarnished. That accounts for Mr. Mueller’s stonewalling.
Obviously, Mueller’s lack of knowledge of what was contained in the report which bore his name made it clear that he had not been “in charge” of the investigation. Strassel basically says that doesn’t matter because they were all of the same mind.
Mueller, Aaron Zebley, who oversaw the day to day operations of the probe and Andrew Weissmann:
“made the calculated decision to shelter the FBI, the Justice Department, outside private actors, and leading Democrats from any scrutiny of their own potential involvement with 2016 Russian election interference.”
That’s been the story all along. Mr. Comey hid his actions from Congress; the Justice Department and FBI worked overtime to obstruct Republican-led congressional probes; and Mr. Mueller and his team are clearly playing their own important role in hiding the truth. The Mueller testimony only highlights how important it is that Attorney General William Barr is finally pursuing accountability.