The day before Special Counsel Robert Mueller arrived on Capitol Hill to testify before the House judiciary and intelligence committees, Sherrilyn Ifill, who serves as president and director-counsel of LDF, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, offered an astute assessment of an event that’s been sold to the masses as monumental but in no way speaks to the true severity of the matter at hand.
“The focus on the Mueller hearing this week speaks volumes,” Ifill tweeted. “Perhaps the state of our country is best revealed by the fact that rather being called to march we have been called to watch TV.”
It is hard not to juxtapose the Mueller moment with the one happening in Puerto Rico or even in New York City as Puerto Ricans have taken to the streets in protest of Governor Ricardo Rosselló, who has been marred in scandal following the release of leaked texts featuring Rosselló making light of Hurricane Maria victims in addition to making misogynistic and homophobic comments. His constituents and their kin in the states have called on Rosselló to resign.
I did not know Puerto Ricans incorporated the electric slide into forms of protest, but it makes me love the diaspora even more.
True enough there are plenty of Americans outside of Puerto Rico currently protesting I.C.E. and other ills seeping from the Trump administration, but nonetheless, Ifill is right that when it comes to the lawless bigoted president who actively invited a foreign government’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and used his executive powers to stifle the investigation into that interference, we have indeed been collectively called to do nothing more than tune into The Real Housewives of The Mueller Report reunion special.
As much as Democrats and Republicans harp on how precious American democracy is (in spite of all of the signs to the contrary that is as pure and unyielding as advertised), you would think more would be asked for us.
The blame for this falls squarely at the feet of Nancy Pelosi, who for all intents and purposes, with respect to Donald Trump and co., is dead set on portraying the anomalous as much ado about nothing. She does so on the pretense that the mantra slow and steady wins the race is a real way of taking on a shameless charlatan known for his chronic narcissism and penchant for abuses of power and deep love of chaos. In reality, she’s just scared of moderate white voters and caters to them rather than challenging them and everyone else to stop Donald Trump from leaving the United States in the same shape he left the Trump Taj Mahal.
For those less inclined to be so accommodating, this testimony is presumably supposed to rally the troops and get more Americans to care about what troubling and illegal activity is outlined in The Mueller Report.
Now begs the question if this made TV event was worth it.
In the first few minutes of Mueller’s testimony before the judiciary committee, I suppose select Democrats got what they wanted to some degree. House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler was able to get the former special counsel to directly contradict one of President Trump’s primary claims about the Mueller investigation: that he was exonerated of any wrongdoing. Nadler asked 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?”
“Correct, that is not what the report said,” Mueller replied.
In another exchange, Nadler asked, “And what about total exoneration? Did you actually totally exonerate the President?”
“No,” Mueller replied.
I assume the clip that will be replayed in the hours and potentially the few days ahead, Mueller saying “The President was not exculpated for the acts that he allegedly committed” will be replayed, but to what end?
Meanwhile, the rest of the judiciary hearing went as expected.
A lot of Democratic House members were shooting for a Kamala Harris-like moment without realizing they don’t have the California senator’s skillset. Kudos go to Ted Lieu for trying to get Mueller to read from his report, though. It would have made for powerful television, but alas, Mueller declined. That said, Lieu was effective in his ability to succinctly paint a picture of how Trump obstructed justice and what factors stifle his prosecution (Mueller later added an addendum at the second hearing). Lieu along with other House Democrats such as Debbie Jessika Mucarsel-Powell, Hakeem Jeffries, Pramila Jayapal, among others were all able to highlight criminality from Trump.
Even a GOP congressman like Kenneth Robert Buck inadvertently aided their cause. Buck asked Mueller “Could you charge the president with a crime after he left office?” Mueller answered “yes.” Buck followed with, “You believe that you could charge the president of the United States with obstruction of justice after he left office?” Mueller replied “yes.”
As for the rest of the sycophants representing the GOP at the hearing, they were as embarrassing as expected. It’s pitiful to see grown men and women cater to an oversized geriatric baby that looks like a rotten sweet potato and speaks in burning cross and white hood, but such is life. I did chuckle like hell at the congresswoman who asked Mueller why didn’t he cite Fox News in his report the way he listed actual news organizations.
Overall, Mueller was rather blasé to both Democrats and Republicans in that morning hearing until he was challenged by one of his fellow Republicans on the committee over accusations of bias.
Mueller pushes back hard on hiring practices: “I have been in this business for almost 25 years,” Mueller said. “And in those 25 years, I have not had occasion once to ask somebody about their political affiliation. It is not done. What I care about is the capability of the individual.”
At 12:52 EST, House Intel Committee Chair Adam Schiff led the Mueller’s second appointment of the day, and in his opening remarks, highlighted why his committee should have been the first one Americans watched today. Not only did Mueller appear less reticent in answering questions, the questions themselves felt more pointed from Democrats collectively. But to the point of Mueller being more forthright, he noted the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation – the one that started this entire ordeal – is ongoing.
And in one exchange with Democratic congressman Mike Quigly, who quoted Trump’s past praise of Wikileaks, Mueller’s response was that “problematic is an understatement” with regard to Trump’s commentary given it’s giving some boast to “what is and should be illegal activity.”
But let Republicans like Devin Nunes tell it, the Democrats conspired with Russians to assist Donald Trump in securing an electoral victory so that they could undermine Trump’s presidency. I wish these people weren’t so stupid. Or clownish — say, Congressman Ratcliff, who gave you soap opera actor in the first hearing in terms of dramatics, thanking Mueller for his thoughtful responses to his questions and service to the country.
Already, many of the pundit class have blasted the hearing as a “disaster” for Democrats. Those that feel that way are largely part of the problem in American political discourse because they are goofs who live in a bubble and think life ought to mirror Watergate or some Aaron Sorkin penned production. Their disappointment speaks to their superficial and largely useless line of thinking.
I would not argue that the hearing was pointless. Mueller may not have entertained, but he did offer Democrats what many of them sought from him. The problem, though, is that their leadership doesn’t care and that is a detriment to all of us.
For months now, Pelosi and co’s attitude was to wait for the Mueller Report, which came and went and was largely defanged by the Trump lackey Attorney General Bill Barr. Then we were told to wait for more congressional investigations before launching the impeachment inquiry Pelosi has repeatedly said she doesn’t want to launch. Those investigations have since been stymied by Trump effectively ordering everyone around him to take those House subpoenas and use them as wipes for wherever they see fit. Following this hearing, one imagines that some other excuse will be offered to prevent Pelosi and the caucus she leads from doing their job.
Bob Mueller is a white Republican male in his 70s that is an institutionalist trained to color in the lines. He was never a superhero. He was never going to save us.
We have to save ourselves and that requires mobilization. Adam Jentleson, former deputy chief of staff for former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, tweeted during the hearing: “Impeachment is not going to happen unless you burn up the phones and show up at town halls. It should be clear by now that there’s no secret plan to slowly build support and launch impeachment later – there’s only a plan in plain sight to avoid impeachment at all costs.”
Democrats have long had what they needed to mobilize people to tackle that aspiring authoritarian so it’s hard to believe that today – informative as it was – will change much. It’s sadly by design. Meanwhile, about 20 minutes after Mueller’s second hearing wrapped, Governor Rosselló held a cabinet meeting in which he was expected to resign. One hour prior to that announced 4 PM EST meeting, the Puerto Rican legislature revealed that they were ready to begin impeachment proceedings.
The revolution can be televised, but only after people are called to the streets rather than simply being asked to tune in and let their fate be settled by the TV punditry.