There he was, a 74 -year-old man, looking weary, not the man of yesteryear, not as energetic, not as fiery, being lambasted by a bunch of Republican stooges, fielding questions that as far as he was concerned were already asked and answered within his 400+ page report.
Did the Russians interfere in a massive way in the 2016 election? Yes, they did.
Did they want Donald Trump to win? Yes, they did.
Did Donald Trump and all the key people on his campaign know about this? Yes, they did.
Did they welcome this, and do everything they could to aid and abet it? Yes, they did.
Was there evidence of what would amount to a criminal conspiracy, a very high legal bar to cross? Yes, evidence, but not enough that we could indict, were an indictment possible, which owing to an OLC memo, it is not.
There were, however, something on the order of 150 contacts between members of the Trump campaign and Russians, or their cut-outs, indicating a desire to assist the Russian meddling? Yes, there were.
This was unethical, immoral, and unpatriotic? Yes, absolutely.
And throughout, the President and his minions have lied about Russian interference having ever occurred? Yes, continuously.
Donald was also trying to negotiate a real estate deal with the Russians, all during the campaign, that would have earned him hundreds of millions of dollars, correct? Yes, correct.
He lied about that during the campaign? He did.
And lying about that, as well as lying about Russian interference generally, left Trump open to Russian blackmail, yes? Yes, absolutely.
And then those involved in the campaign did their best, and the President did his best, to obstruct any investigation into all of this that could prove Trump’s wrongdoing? Yes, they did, and he did.
In fact, they lied about all of it not just to the public, but to you and the FBI? Yes, certainly.
In fact, there is enough evidence of that obstruction to indict the President for crimes, should he lose office before the statute of limitations runs out? Yes, there is.
The President has thus been lying when he asserts that your report completely exonerates him, with his chant of “no collusion, no obstruction”? Yes. That is not what my report says at all.
Is Putin going to try to put his thumb on the scale for Trump again in 2020? Yes, he will, and in fact already is, even as we sit here.
Republicans: See? Donald is innocent!!
The Press: Mueller didn’t bring his “A” game, impeachment now off the table!
Nancy Pelosi: We need more facts to launch an impeachment!
God almighty. God almighty. I don’t know where to start. First, however reluctantly, I have to gut Ms. Pelosi for abject cowardice. No more facts are needed. The refusal to impeach is a political calculation, based on the premise that the Republican Senate will never convict. No, it won’t. Here’s an idea, though: do what’s right regardless. Force the Republican lickspittles in the Senate to declare their unprincipled allegiance to their fascist orange god-king. For the love of God, just do your constitutional duty and let the chips fall where they may.
As for most of those in the press corps, maybe Trump is right and they really are the enemies of the people. The overwhelming bulk of the opinions spewed by the pundits today, entirely missing the point, held that Mueller wasn’t very exciting, he didn’t say anything beyond what was in his report, and there was no electrifying GOTCHA moment, so he’s a failure, the Democrats are failures, and there can be no impeachment because nothing happened on camera that could sway the public. In other words, look, we’re not here to inform the populace and stress what all this really means, we’re just making a call on who next gets voted off the island, based on what we can gather about public opinion from the overnights.
Dammit, the press, especially some of the most respected opinion leaders at the NYT and WaPo, have been absolutely worthless on this, and have, in fact, behaved as dimwits who feel they have no responsibility beyond calling the horse race. What about the truth, you goddam idiots? What about exhorting people to understand what Mueller’s testimony really meant? Instead they all reviewed Mueller’s on-stage performance like it was entertainment, like they were reviewing the last episode of Seinfeld, or Lost, and whether the final instalment tied everything up in a neat little bow sufficient to appease an audience ravenous for a Big Dramatic Finish. It was like reading a bunch of frigging movie reviews. Mueller testimony, despite a few compelling scenes, fails to thoroughly satisfy.
Worthless. When American democracy finally collapses, it will be on the press as much as anybody else.
I feel so very sad for Bob Mueller. Despite all I’ve said to criticize his report, and his own reluctance to push the envelope just a little bit beyond the limits prescribed by his old school ethics, towards telling the public what anyone with sense could infer actually happened, my heart went out to him. I watched him yesterday, a grizzled warrior worn down by the fray, and thought how awful it was that this decent, almost courtly gentleman, a man who’d fought bravely for his country in wartime, and served it in peacetime to the very best of his considerable ability, whose character is beyond reproach, and whose dignity should not have been assaulted as it was, had to suffer such fools and maintain his composure. What he reported, what he reiterated in his testimony, was enough, objectively, to scandalize anyone whose sworn duty it was to uphold and defend the Constitution. That’s what he was supposed to do, was it not? He seemed not just tired, but bewildered, as the Republicans harangued him with absurd conspiracy theories, and the Democrats seemed exasperated as they asked him to confirm that he’d said in his report exactly what he’d actually said. Nothing in his experience could have equipped him to confront this level of political dysfunction. Operating under the assumptions and rules that he’d been brought up to believe in, the rules and assumptions that had governed his behaviour all his life, he had, as far as he could see, done his whole duty. He’d supplied all the facts he could. He’d set out what he could and could not prove as a matter of law, under the law as it stood. What else was left for him to do?
Now, everyone is reporting that this admirable, honourable man concluded his career as a failure. The Congressional Bachelor gave his rose to another suitor. Forget what was actually substantiated by everything he’d reported. As a contestant in the political reality show, he was obviously tired and, God damn him, old – yes, old, appearing all the while as if he’d lived every one of those 74 years. He’d lost a step. His fastball had lost its zip. He didn’t show the same stamina he had back in the day. His performance was inadequate. The optics were bad.
Thus does a republic informed by empty-headed pundits, viewing the world through the lens of ludicrous reality show vapidity, stumble towards the cliff’s edge, despite every urgent warning, and everything that’s been explained to it in the most painstaking detail.
At some point, one has to conclude that they’ll get what they deserve, but the hell of it is, we’re in this too, and we don’t deserve it. I’ll insist upon this too: Bob Mueller did not end his career in failure. No matter what I or anybody else has said, how frustrated we’ve been, he did indeed do his whole duty, as best he saw it. As reckoned within the world in which he formed his character and values, in which honest public servants could count upon receiving an honest hearing, yes, he did his whole duty.
I’ve been exasperated with Bob Mueller, but upon reflection one has to allow that it’s not his failure if that isn’t the world any more.