In a hearing described by many pundits as an optics “disaster” due to his “shaky,” “confused” and “sluggish” performance, Special Counsel Robert Mueller appeared to struggle to understand many of the questions posed by members of the Democrat-controlled House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday and expressed a lack of knowledge on key topics and passages in his own report.
The hearing was egregious enough that even some Democrats have admitted they were “beyond shocked” with the hearing — particularly about how unfamiliar Mueller appears to have been with the investigation he was tasked with heading up.
While some were only willing to say so on the condition of anonymity, The Washington Post reports that many Democrats now feel it was a “mistake” to put their hope in Robert Mueller to make their case for impeaching President Trump. One of the reasons is that he apparently was not as on top of the investigation as they had believed.
One anonymous Democrat told the outlet, “I was beyond shock,” by what the Post describes as his “occasional confusion and seeming unfamiliarity with details of the report.”
One pro-impeachment Democratic congressman who was willing to go on the record about the Mueller “mistake” told the Post after the Democratic House meeting that followed the hearing his party shouldn’t have relied on Mueller, whom the Post describes as “a 74-year-old reluctant witness who had made clear that he would not provide the blockbuster moment the party craved,” to make the public case for impeachment.
“We are not potted plants,” said Democratic Rep. Jared Huffman (CA), who is one of the 98 House Democrats who back moving forward with impeachment. “We can actually shape some of this public sentiment. We’re not powerless, and I just think we’ve got to get much more serious about doing that part of our job.”
Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ) also went on the record about his response to the Mueller hearing, admitting that the special counsel “looked tired” and that he “didn’t see anything amazing” in Wednesday’s hearing. Rep. Daniel Kildee (MI) had a similar response, telling the Post that he doesn’t see anything that “indicates this is a turning point.”
The Post reports that “perhaps the most disappointed” in Mueller’s “tired” performance were Democratic members of the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, who “felt blindsided that no one warned them how much Mueller had aged — and regretful that they had forced a decorated Vietnam veteran and longtime civil servant into testifying when he was so reluctant in the first place.”
The report comes amid multiple reports revealing that Mueller was not as involved in the investigation as the public had been led to believe.
In a report published on the day of the hearing, the Post presented a statement from a spokesman for Mueller explaining that the aide who would accompany him at the hearing, Deputy Special Counsel Aaron Zebley, was actually the guy who controlled “day-to-day oversight of the investigations conducted by the Office.” After the “disaster” of a hearing, The New York Times revealed that Robert Mueller was not nearly as present as he had been in previous investigations and Zebley effectively ran the show.
When Robert Mueller first requested last-minute that Zebley be allowed to attend the hearing with him, President Trump pointed out that Zebley legally represented “the ‘basement server guy’ who got off free in the Crooked Hillary case.” In his private practice before accepting the position with the special counsel, the Post reports, Zebley “represented Justin Cooper, an ex-adviser to former president Bill Clinton who helped Hillary Clinton set up the private email server that would later become the center of a federal probe.”
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