The news that the Sphinx of Russiagate had finally agreed to testify broke last night as we wrapping up here for the day, although there’s not much to say beyond the headline. He’ll be there, however reluctantly, fielding questions from Jerry Nadler’s Judiciary Committee and Adam Schiff’s Intelligence Committee. (The latter will also have a closed session with him to discuss classified matters.) House Republicans may be more excited than Democrats are:
Still, some Democrats are already trying to temper expectations. Privately, some fear that Mueller’s much anticipated testimony won’t live up to the hype that has been built around him for months…
“I just think it’s more political theater,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (N.C.), a Trump ally who offered a warning: “Mr. Mueller better be prepared. I mean, there’s a lot more questions that Republicans have than Democrats.”
He added: “This is the Democrats trying to resurrect a Russia collusion narrative that the American people are tired of. And yet, Mr. Mueller has not been subject to cross examination. He will be now.”
Trump-friendly Democrat Alan Dershowitz also thinks it’s a mistake by Dems to bring Mueller in…
“He can’t refuse to answer questions about the FISA application,” Dershowitz said, referring to a request by the FBI to surveil a member of the 2016 Trump campaign under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
“Those are the kind of questions that I think Republicans will be very well prepared to ask. Those are the kind of questions which are currently under investigation by the inspector general whose report we are waiting for. But those are not in any way precluded. So I think that they will regret having called him.”
…whereas Trump-hostile libertarian Justin Amash does not:
Rep. Justin Amash, the lone GOP supporter of an impeachment inquiry, told me this morning that “I do” want Mueller to go beyond the four corners of the report. He said that he wants Mueller to “tell the story to the American people.”
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) June 26, 2019
I think Nadler’s more right than wrong in the clip below if if if he can get Mueller to walk through the details of the report in his answers. That’s all Democrats want out of this — a televised tutorial on the report’s contents from the man who wrote it, amid a media circus that guarantees millions of viewers. No one expects Mueller to say that he personally believes Trump committed obstruction of justice or that Bill Barr abdicated his duty as AG by not including Mueller’s own summaries in his initial letter to Congress about the report’s findings. He’s been clear that he’d rather not testify, warning Congress in his short press conference a few weeks ago that he wouldn’t discuss anything that’s not in the report itself. He’ll try hard not to make any news in his testimony. But that’s fine by Dems. Their chief concern about the report at this point is that many Americans still don’t know what’s in it. Most haven’t read it; all they may know about it is what they’ve heard on Fox or conservative talk radio. Their best bet to counter Trump’s message that he was totally exonerated is to have Mueller himself on TV affirming repeatedly, for hours on end, that he wasn’t exonerated on obstruction. We live in an age of video, not print. If you want your political message to penetrate, you need to put on a show. Just look who’s president!
But that “if if if” is key. What if Mueller claims some sort of privilege in refusing to walk through the obstruction material? What if he answers repeatedly, as Patterico suspects, that “That information is in the report” and refuses to elaborate? The Democrats’ show will be spoiled. Dems would be happy enough to have Mueller literally reading from the obstruction section of the report, just to have that information beamed into American homes and made available for Democratic 2020 attack ads. (I expect there’ll be a lot of requests for Mueller to read at the hearing.) But if he won’t signal some doubt as to Trump’s innocence, even if it’s just by reiterating the conclusions in the obstruction section, he’ll defeat the purpose of this pageant.
I think he’ll end up disappointing them. But he’ll disappoint Republicans too. The stagecraft of one House Republican after another angrily grandstanding about Mueller’s “team of Democrats” etc. won’t play well in contrast to Mueller’s just-the-facts mien. And I don’t know what Dershowitz is expecting him to admit as regards the original FISA application. Chances of an admission that the entire investigation was based on a lie trumped up by Team Hillary and eagerly pursued by a deep-state cabal of which Mueller was supposedly a key part seem … low. But GOPers probably don’t care much about that, for the same reason that Dems don’t much care if Mueller breaks new ground in his testimony. The opportunity presented here is simply to educate casual voters who might not have paid much attention to the Russia investigation until now. If Republicans can hit all of their lines of attack to discredit it — the Steele dossier, the FISA application, conflicts of interest, and so on — that’s information that the casual voter will have to weigh against Mueller’s refusal to exonerate Trump on obstruction.
Nadler says Mueller's testimony will have a "profound impact" pic.twitter.com/5N6HcVQl5r
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) June 26, 2019