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Democrats, get out of your own way

Joe Conason on

Robert Mueller's testimony disappointed anyone seeking drama, but his performance isn't the problem. What keeps congressional Democrats from fulfilling their constitutional duty to confront a lawless president is their own political inertia.

In his own careful and stolid way, Mueller laid out the facts and arguments provided in his 448-page report (although he evidently hasn't yet memorized each page, to the satisfaction of his detractors). Within the opening minutes of the hearing, Mueller's answers to House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler established that his report did not "exculpate" President Trump in any way; that in at least 10 instances, Trump attempted to stop the investigation by ordering Mueller's dismissal and discouraging witnesses from testifying; and that Trump refused to sit for an interview with Mueller or even answer questions about those many instances of alleged obstruction.

Those complaining that Mueller didn't make any "news" on Wednesday might look again at this exchange between him and Nadler, when he verbally rebutted Trump for the first time in public:

"NADLER: Director Mueller, the president has repeatedly claimed that your report found there was no obstruction and that it completely and totally exonerated him, but that is not what your report said, is it?

"MUELLER: Correct. That is not what the report said.

"NADLER: Now, reading from page 2 of Volume 2 of your report that's on the screen, you wrote, quote, "If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment," close quote.

 

"Now does that say there was no obstruction?

"MUELLER: No.

"NADLER: In fact, you were actually unable to conclude the president did not commit obstruction of justice, is that correct?

"MUELLER: Well, we at the outset determined that we -- when it came to the president's culpability, we needed to -- we needed -- we needed to go forward only after taking into account the OLC opinion that indicated that a president -- sitting president cannot be indicted.

...continued

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