Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Mueller Tesimony: Dueling Circus Realities

The Mueller testimony is live right now, and I'm unimpressed.

Here's Politico, "Mueller refutes Trump’s ‘no collusion, no obstruction’ line."

Actually, this whole thing's a dud. Mueller claims he hadn't heard of Fusion GPS.

I just tuned in, though I'll post highlights this afternoon.

Meanwhile, at this morning's LAT, a pre-analysis, "Democrats and Republicans prepare for Mueller testimony, but with competing goals":

WASHINGTON —  As a senior Justice Department official and then FBI director for 12 years, Robert S. Mueller III carefully guarded his reputation as a straight shooter in the midst of political upheaval and partisan warfare.
His square-jawed, just-the-facts approach will be put to the ultimate test Wednesday when the former special counsel testifies for five hours in nationally televised House hearings about the Russia investigation, which examined Moscow’s interference in the 2016 election and President Trump’s attempts to shield himself from the probe.

Democrats and Republicans are plotting ways to transform his testimony — first to the House Judiciary Committee and then to the House Intelligence committee — into a series of politically charged sound bites they can use to attack or defend the president.

Democrats plan to steer Mueller toward the most damning parts of his final report, particularly incidents where Trump directed underlings to fire Mueller — none did so — or discourage witnesses from cooperating with the special counsel’s office.

The key question is whether Democrats can get Mueller to say point blank that Trump would have faced criminal charges if he weren’t the president, a declaration that would further blunt Trump’s false claims of full exoneration.

Republicans are expected to pursue a two-pronged approach. They’ll try to undermine Mueller’s credibility by suggesting his team was politically biased against Trump. They also want to highlight conclusions in the report that benefit the president, such as Mueller’s determination that he could not establish a criminal conspiracy between his campaign and Moscow.

Both Democrats and Republicans have at least one thing in common: They expect to face a reluctant witness with a history of terse, dry answers to overheated congressional questioning.

“I think he will be equally parsimonious with both sides,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), chair of the House Intelligence Committee.

Mueller did not want to testify, telling reporters on May 29 that he would not go beyond the details contained in the 448-page report released six weeks earlier. But he agreed to appear on Capitol Hill after Democrats issued him a subpoena.

Jim Popkin, a spokesman for Mueller, said he’s preparing for the hearing with a small group of former officials from the special counsel’s office.

“This is someone who has prided himself over the years for very careful preparation. He will be extremely well prepared come Wednesday,” Popkin said Monday.

Mueller will make an opening statement and submit a redacted copy of his report for the record.

“I think it’s safe to say that on Wednesday he will stick to the four walls of the Mueller report as much as he can,” Popkin said.

In a Monday letter, the Justice Department told Mueller that his testimony “must remain within the boundaries of your public report” to avoid infringing upon executive privilege and other confidentiality requirements. The letter said Mueller had requested guidance from the department earlier this month, a suggestion that he may rely on it to avoid answering questions he wants to avoid.

Democrats have made no secret of their goals — they worry that Trump paid little price for pushing legal and political boundaries, and they’re concerned that voters struggled to digest the lengthy report.

“Not everybody will read the book, but people will watch the movie,” said a Democratic staff member on the Judiciary Committee, who requested anonymity to discuss preparations for the hearing...