The insistence by Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerrold Nadler to subpoena a reluctant Robert Mueller to testify before the Committee has proved an unmitigated disaster.
Nadler had hoped that Mueller would appear before the Committee on May 15 but the Committee’s 24-16 vote on party lines to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a subpoena for the unredacted Mueller report and its underlying evidence appeared to have complicated negotiations for Mueller to testify before the Committee.
A very confident and assured Nadler asserted:
He [Mueller] will come at some point. If necessary, we'll subpoena him, and he will come...
Mueller indeed came – and the President Trump-designated “fake news media” even realised what a terrible mistake Nadler had made.
The New York Times led the charge:
Over the years, aides marveled to reporters about how Mr. Mueller managed to simultaneously grasp details and stay focused on the big picture. In 88 previous appearances before Congress, he studiously managed to avoid political fights, while keeping overly inquisitive members at bay in exchanges that have become famous for how little he managed to say.
Mr. Mueller hewed to that pattern with House members on Wednesday, brusquely dismissing some questions out of hand and refusing to engage when they tried to bait him into delivering conclusions beyond those in his report.
Nonetheless, he was unmistakably shaky. Roughly 15 times, he asked for a question to be repeated. He repeatedly said, “If it’s from the report, yes, I support it” — a line that seemed to suggest that he did not know what the report actually said. He seemed to struggle to complete his sentences, and not always because he had been interrupted.
The New York Times continued:
Had Mr. Mueller delivered a commanding performance — even if he said little — he might have cemented that impression. Instead, he may have ignited a whole new set of questions about whether he was too old for the job he took on, whether he delegated too many decisions to his top deputies, and whether he was reluctant to testify because he was not up to it.
In fact, those suspicions already had some currency. In Senate testimony this year, Attorney General William P. Barr suggested that in a March 5 meeting, Mr. Mueller did not clearly articulate his reasoning about why he declined to decide whether President Trump had committed a prosecutable crime.
Rachel Maddow – a presenter at MSNBC and a favourite Trump fake news target - who had confidently predicted Mueller would find Trump guilty of collusion with Russia to influence the outcome of the 2016 Presidential elections – was moved to admit:
… Mueller's personal performance today, I think, puts a spotlight on the man who was sitting next to him and not speaking today, his deputy, Aaron Zebley. He's described now as the deputy special counsel. We're now told that he ran the day-to-day operations of the investigation and the rest of Mueller's staff.
There was so much that Mueller seemed sort of detached from today, and he seemed to be, at times, taking it on trust that certain things were in his report or not, whether or not he personally recalled those things.
Because of that performance from Mueller today, I think that lights a fire under the need to speak to the people on his team.
One can confidently predict – with apologies to Lord Alfred Tennyson:
The Democrats know
Nadler has blundered.
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.
Into Barr’s valley of Death
Ride the Democrats ….
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