Of course we know it will be a bust, but at least a couple of outlets are getting ahead of the curve. The media has begun ramping up chatter over Robert Mueller’s testimony on Wednesday — as I’m writing this, NBC’s sending around a promotional e-mail complete with a logo, seen above. Their missive also pledges to have five anchors working the gig spread across two platforms, NBC proper and MSNBC.
Nothing like setting expectations! To be fair, everyone seems to be jumping into the deep end of the Mueller pool (via Twitchy):
— Belinda Thomma (@bjv1129) July 22, 2019
The Washington Post, however, sounds deeply skeptical that Mueller will say anything worthy of the media circus that will launch the day after tomorrow … or anything new at all:
On Wednesday, when he delivers long-awaited testimony about his investigation into President Trump and Russian interference in the 2016 election, Democrats are hoping to coax from him the kind of dramatic moments that could galvanize public opinion against the president. Republicans, meanwhile, are eager to elicit testimony that shows the investigation was biased from its inception.
Those who know him best are skeptical he will meet either side’s expectations.
“For anybody hoping he’s going to provide new information or evidence against the president, I think many people will be very disappointed,” said John Pistole, who served as Mueller’s deputy for years when he was FBI director. “And then on the other side of the aisle, some may be disappointed to find out that he’s not a demagogue of the left.”
Pistole reminds the Post that Mueller dislikes congressional appearances anyway, but Mueller has already specifically made it clear he has nothing to add to his report. He held a press conference after its full release explicitly discouraging committees from attempting to force him to appear, telling them to read the report instead. Mueller had pushed the limits of Department of Justice guidelines on the report to AG William Barr, who then released almost all of it to the public.
Pistole offers a even-money prediction:
Pistole said he expects Mueller to be “as unresponsive as possible, while telling the truth. I think his first approach will be, ‘Read the report and form your own conclusions.’ He’s no longer a government employee, and he can tell them to pound sand, not that he would use those words.”
By the end of the day, who knows? Mueller might well use those specific words for the umpteenth time someone demands to know something that’s already in his report.
Politico also tries to do a little bar-lowering today as well. In an opinion piece, Fordham law professor Jed Shugerman offers his own prediction, as well as the one piece of advice that is guaranteed to be ignored on Wednesday:
If recent history is any guide, Robert Mueller’s much-anticipated Capitol Hill appearance on Wednesday will fizzle into a mix of political grandstanding by the questioners and frustratingly narrow answers from the star witness. Congress’s biggest public chance to highlight the links between the Trump campaign and Russia, and the president’s acts of obstruction, will become a chance for members to showcase their wit, score politcial points and maybe even go viral with a dramatic exchange. This one was originally scheduled for last week, and a main reason for its delay is that the junior members of the Judiciary committee wouldn’t have enough time to get their own questions in.
So far, the solution has been to expand the hearing time. Here’s a better one: None of the members should ask the questions at all.
Their expert staffers should ask all the questions—not just to resolve the battle of egos, but to give Congress its only chance to make any real progress on the issue.
Here’s an even better suggestion: no one asks any questions. Instead of this hearing, everyone should resolve to do two things — read the report, and then do their jobs rather than farm them out to special counsels. If Congress is unhappy with Mueller’s conclusions, Mueller’s not the problem. The legal “mistakes” to which Shugerman refers later all come from the same source, which is Congress’ demand to have the executive branch investigate the president instead of Congress itself. Democrats in particular raised Mueller high up on a pedestal, threatening to pass laws protecting an inferior executive branch employee from his superiors and making him into Super-Mueller, at least until they read his report.
Finally, even Jerrold Nadler is worried that expectations might be set so high that Mueller’s appearance comes across as a “dud”:
House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler said on Sunday he hopes former special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony before the House won’t be “a dud.”
“What if the whole thing ends up being a dud?” Chris Wallace asked the New York Democrat on “Fox News Sunday.”
“Well,” Nadler responded, “we hope it won’t end up being a dud. We’re going to ask specific questions — ‘look at page 344, paragraph 2, please read it. Does that describe an obstruction of justice? Did you find that the president did that?’
And when Mueller says It depends on the context and intent as I wrote on page 344 paragraph 3, what then? The word “dud” does come to mind. Democrats had better be ready for the wave of ennui that sweeps across America everywhere except in the Beltway bubble.