That headline approximates what former special counsel Robert Mueller said about 100 times this morning in taciturn testimony before the House Judiciary Committee. The Dems were hoping for Robert De Niro (hat tip to SNL), but they got the old Marine who gave little more than his name, rank and serial number.
In the long buildup to his testimony, the talking heads were saying “no one read the book,” meaning Mueller’s 448-page report for the attorney general, “so here is the movie.” The Democrats’ wanted a blockbuster that would condense the Trump escapade into something easily digestible.
They were hoping for “Avengers: Endgame.” They got “Ishtar.” And their plans for a roadmap to impeachment bit the dust.
During a hearing that lasted more than 3 1/2 hours, during which more than three dozen Honorables got to ask questions — some carefully crafted, others propaganda — Mueller successfully dodged providing a solid gold sound bite. When two Democrats asked him to read from his own report — but a line that sounded like an indictment of the president — Mueller declined.
Committee chair Jerry Nadler, whose head is shaped like a backpack, actually got the line that will be a headline, I predict.
Nadler said that Trump keeps jabbering that he was exonerated. Is that true?, he asked Mueller, who said it was not. But the words weren’t in Mueller’s mouth. Nadler asked a slightly different question and got Mueller to say “the president was not exculpated.”
That is a clunky word, but it means the president is not exonerated. Whether that means anything to his loyal followers is questionable.
For their part, the Republicans got Mueller to agree there was no actionable evidence of actual collusion or conspiracy between the Russians and the Trumpsters. Dems will want to split hairs, but it means Trump is off the hook.
In terms of getting Mueller to say something damning, the Dems fell flat. Many of the Republicans blew a smoke screen invoking the origins of the investigation — meaning the Steele Dossier — which Mueller said he would not comment on. One of his most frequent remarks, when asked if a comment was true, was to reply it was “generally accurate.”
But here’s the thing: Any partisan can make the hearing seem pro- or anti-Trump by selectively culling quotes. I expect the most damning difference will be between Fox and MSNBC, but I might check out the broadcast networks, just for fun.
The Democrats carved the report’s 10 alleged obstructions by the president down to five, and let different members take a whack at them. It worked, up to a point.
Republicans defended their man by saying what he did was the reaction of an innocent man, wrongly accused, as if that made it right. They also hammered the theme that the investigators assembled by Mueller were all Democrats and contained some who had donated to Hillary Clinton.
I believe Mueller when he said he never asked anyone their political affiliation, but if he had to do it again, I bet he would.
(This report is “generally accurate.”)