"It wasn't a single attempt. They're doing it as we sit here. And they expect to do it during the next campaign. ...I hope this is not the new normal. I fear it is," former Special Counsel and FBI Director, Robert Mueller, regarding Russian election interference attempts, during his U.S. House testimony on 7/24/2019.
Robert Mueller wrapped up his nearly four decades of service to our nation with a less than glorious farewell appearance on Wednesday, July 24, 2019, before two U.S. House committees, answering their queries about his Special Counsel Report on Russian interference attempts throughout the 2016 Presidential Election.
Some view Robert Mueller as a patriot and war hero, with two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart among many honors from his Vietnam era service in the Marines, or his later work as a U.S. Attorney, Deputy Attorney General and F.B.I. Director, appointed and then re-appointed by three very different Presidents, from both major political parties. Others see a biased partisan tool of Congressional Democrats and/or the Democratic Party, and still others...something in between.
Regardless, Mueller's track record, accomplishments and career legacy include the successful prosecution of former Panamanian dictator, General Manuel Noriega, the Libyan terrorists responsible for the Pan Am Flight 103 (Lockerbie bombing) and John Gotti, crime boss of the Gambino Family. Mueller was unanimously confirmed (98-0) as FBI Director, following his nomination by President George H. W. Bush in July 2001, despite a then deeply divided Senate.
Mueller also let what is a well-known secret in Washington, D.C., despite his name being atop the 450-plus page tome delivered to the U.S. Attorney General in late March 2019, he clearly didn't write, or possibly even read every word...and in the view of some, he may not have have even read his own report closely.
But Mueller should have expected questions about the legal meaning of 'collusion' and its similarity in lay-language to the legal term of conspiracy, as the Special Counsel often made points on such finer distinctions in the rule of law, as well as Justice Department standing policy, so that he not conclude his second report volume, focused on potential obstruction of justice concerns, with a non-legal term...such as exhonerate.
And based on the ground rules securing Mueller's appearance and testimony, the skilled lawyer and bureaucrat gave himself a series of 'outs.' Mueller did not answer, replied he did not recall or was unaware, or suggested the answer to a questioning member's probe was again...'in the report'...more than 200 times during six hours of testimony. And though I'm not a daily C-SPAN watcher, I've sat through a few decades of Congressional hearings and can remember no other witness simply saying, "pass," when encountering a question he did not like or chose not to answer. For a moment I thought I was watching an old episode of "The $64,000 Pyramid."
Mueller stuck to his report and seldom veered from its conclusions, and yet despite his long known preference for the GOP, he clearly does not like this President, and he responded to one Congressional query, asked several times, whether a President, no longer in office, who has previously committed potential crimes, may later be further investigated or prosecuted. There goes that White House Christmas card list for 2020.
But sadly, America tends to focus on the flubs more often than the hard news. When being served up a low-inside softball, to further establish Mueller's conservative creds...a GOP Congressman, after reciting his sterling military service record, smiled and asked Mueller which U.S. President appointed him Assistant U.S. Attorney in the hard-left leaning state of Massachusetts. Mueller first bobbled the ball, asking...Do you mean which Senator? Before staring off into space and guessing that the answer was President George Bush (without specifying which Bush). The congressman, unprepared for this memory gap himself, swallowed, smiled nervously and said...'According to my records, you were appointed by President Ronald Reagan.' Oops.
I was reminded of Reagan's own troubled video testimony before Congress during the 1984 Iran-Contra Hearings, when Reagan's most repeated phrase was "...I don't recall." Hopefully, just as Reagan's full record, highs and lows, are now more fully viewed in context, Mueller can hope that historians and the long view may later give him similar and more complete perspective. But in the near term, he can expect more mockery, and comparison to the backbone and consistency of the famed pasta which shares his name, and we all know what happens to over-cooked pasta. It devolves into rubbery, sticky mush. Bob Mueller deserves better.