Was anyone happy that former special counsel Robert Mueller is testifying today, in however limited a way? Mueller wasn’t. Trump wasn’t. Republicans acted outraged. And Democrats did little with the hot potato.
While it’s unclear if the committee hearings will move the impeachment needle, Mueller continued to hew closely to the lawyerly linguistic mix found in his three-month-old report, which indicates to those fluent in legalese a strong case for impeachment, but only when carefully parsed. “If we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we could have said so,” Mueller famously said in May, which was his previous public appearance on the matter. “We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.” Not exactly pithy enough for a protest sign. After all, Attorney General William Barr said he could have reached a decision on obstruction.
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So far, we know what we knew before today — that, were he not a sitting president, Trump’s on-the-record comments are enough for him to be charged with several felonies for obstruction of justice. Mueller did offer today however that Trump “could be prosecuted for obstruction of justice crimes after he leaves office,” which was also a known-known, but getting him to admit the small concession was considered a victory in the stalemate.
Why are we hearing from the special counsel who authored the report, and not hearing from the actual witnesses interviewed for the report? Because the president has blocked the release of requested documents and blocked responses to requests for subpoenas, none of which carry the weight of a congressional impeachment inquiry. Little mentioned today was why a president would try so hard to block testimony and a report — not to mention subpoenas and the release of documents — which would allegedly amount to a “complete and total exoneration” of him. Congress has an explosive report that few have actually read, but just getting its author to publicly admit the report doesn’t amount to presidential vindication is somehow considered a win.