- - Wednesday, July 24, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Whatever Democrats wanted to achieve by issuing a subpoena to force former special counsel Robert Mueller to testify on Capitol Hill, they manifestly failed.

Democrats claimed that they wanted to “bring the Mueller report to life.”

Instead, their drive toward impeachment is on its deathbed.

Mr. Mueller tried to prepare Democrats for the reality of his testimony when he said he would not go beyond his report and that his report was his testimony.

But Democrats would not listen.



They wanted a “made for TV” hearing. They were hoping they could force him to go beyond the report.

He refused to do that.

What did we learn from six hours of testimony?

Not one new fact.

These back-to-back hearings were a tremendous waste of time.

On dozens of occasions, Mr. Mueller refused to answer questions, saying the topic went to internal deliberations, classified material, current investigations, or that the subject was outside the scope of his investigation.

While the Democratic case for impeachment sustained a fatal blow, Mr. Mueller’s reputation may have been hardest hit.

For a man who has testified more than 80 times in his career to Congress, he appeared confused, ill-prepared, hard of hearing, and uninformed about his report, his investigation and several key players.

Is it possible he didn’t know what Fusion GPS was? The firm hired by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee to produce the Steele dossier was central to the origin of the investigation and many of the allegations against President Trump and his campaign.

Mr. Mueller’s investigation now appears to have been run by others, with light management from the principal himself. This reality brings real political bias and conflict of interest concerns about Mr. Mueller’s team to the forefront.

If Mr. Mueller was not in charge, then who was? Is it possible he sat in on only a handful of interviews over 22 months?

While Mueller appeared uninterested in the origin of the investigation, the Justice Department inspector general is completing his report on FISA abuse and the Steele dossier. The public should receive it before summer’s end.

The only question that mattered about Wednesday’s hearings was whether they would strengthen the case for impeachment and push Democrats in that direction.

Liberal Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe called the morning hearing a “disaster” and called Mueller “tired.” Former Obama strategist David Axelrod called the hearings “very, very painful.”

Democratic leaders may feel pressure to move forward with an impeachment inquiry. The politics of such a move would be a terrible mistake, as most of the country does not support impeachment and at least 30 House Democrats come from districts where impeachment would be unpopular.

Democrats felt that it was useful to spend their five minutes reading sections of the report back to Mr. Mueller and asking him if they read it correctly. It was embarrassing.

Biased reporters continue to push the line that the Mueller report “did not exonerate” Trump, when no prosecutor ever exonerates anyone. Indeed, juries can only find someone “not guilty,” rather than provide exoneration.

Politically speaking, Mr. Trump was exonerated.

Democrats and their media allies pushed conspiracy and collusion for two years and the Mueller report found zero evidence of criminal conspiracy between Trump and his campaign and Russia. On the issue of obstruction of justice, it made no final recommendation. Despite an initial answer that seemed to blame the Justice Department guideline that a sitting president cannot be indicted, Mr. Mueller later clarified that DOJ’s guideline was not the reason Trump was not indicted for obstruction.

Wednesday’s hearings were the final opportunity for House Democrats to meaningfully shift public opinion. By this standard, they completely failed.

No new facts. No new political damage. A witness who appeared unaware of key details.

This was a complete disaster for the Democrats. They have no one to blame but themselves.

They should have listened to Mr. Mueller when he told everyone he did not want to testify and would provide no new information.

• Matt Mackowiak is president of Austin, Texas, and Washington-based Potomac Strategy Group. He’s a Republican consultant, a Bush administration and Bush-Cheney reelection campaign veteran and former press secretary to two U.S. senators.

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