Attorney General William Barr must be feeling really good about himself right about now. It was Barr, after all, who offered no objections when asked about former special counsel Robert Mueller’s possible testimony before Congress earlier this year.
Given Mueller’s abysmal performance before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees on July 24, Barr looks like a genius who clearly outfoxed congressional Democrats.
The purpose of Mueller’s congressional testimony was twofold: to provide soundbites that could hurt the president, and to elicit testimony that could support the Democrats’ push for impeachment. Both failed miserably.
From a matter of public perception, Mueller appeared weak, feeble, unsure of himself, uncomfortable with what was in the report, unable to remember important and relevant information pertinent to the report, and evasive. Mueller also had difficulty with many of the questions that were posed to him.
As reported by Politico: Mueller asked lawmakers to repeat their questions 30 times; he directed lawmakers back to his report 34 times; he said the questions were outside his “purview” 10 times; and he said he “can’t” or “won’t” get into the substance of the question 99 times.
Not only did Mueller fail to answer many questions, but he also failed to deliver any “whopping” soundbites that could help the Democrats with their impeachment push. To the contrary, some of his points actually helped the president.
One particularly damning exchange for Democrats occurred when Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) asked Mueller to confirm that the reason that he didn’t indict President Donald Trump was because of an Office of Legal Counsel opinion stating that you can’t indict a sitting president. While Mueller initially responded that Lieu was correct, he later corrected his answer at the House Intelligence Committee hearing, stating, “That is not the correct way to say it. As we say in the report and as I said at the opening, we did not reach a determination as to whether the president committed a crime.”
On another occasion, Mueller indicated that he could charge the president with a crime (i.e., obstruction of justice) after the president left office. This, too, was of little significance and wasn’t in dispute. Clearly, a president can be charged with a crime once he leaves office as long as the statute of limitations has not expired and as long as the facts justify such a charge.
Mueller didn’t state that the facts justified such a charge. Rather, he made a general statement that a president may be charged for a crime once he leaves office. It was definitely not an important soundbite, nor was the testimony that Mueller’s report didn’t exonerate the president, which was obviously not Mueller’s job or the proper legal standard.
A Poor Witness
It’s pretty clear that Mueller’s testimony didn’t help the Democrats. However, that’s only one part of the equation. What was more damning was the way that Mueller came across as a witness. This is oftentimes overlooked, yet it’s vital for purposes of public opinion.
For example, at trial, when a witness is questioned on the stand, the jury not only listens to the testimony, but also hones in on the witness’s demeanor and believability. If the witness appears unbelievable, disinterested, confused, evasive, combative, or unprepared, the jury oftentimes views the witness in a negative light and questions the witness’s credibility. Once that happens, it’s very difficult to rehabilitate the witness in the eyes of the jury.
Unfortunately for the Democrats, while this wasn’t a trial in the traditional sense, Mueller was a lousy witness. He consistently referred to his report, failed or refused to answer many relevant questions, and came across as tired, weak, and unprepared. He failed to help their case to impeach the president whatsoever. Think about it: All of the time and money spent and nothing to show for it.
At the end of the day, Barr is a genius! He had no problem if Mueller testified. Judging from Mueller’s recent performance, why would he?
Elad Hakim is a writer, commentator, and attorney. His articles have been published in The Washington Examiner, The Daily Caller, The Federalist, The Western Journal, American Thinker, and other online publications.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.