Robert Mueller’s confused, garbled testimony made it abundantly clear that he was nothing more than a figurehead for the special counsel investigation that he ostensibly led for 22 painstaking months. The real mastermind behind this travesty of an investigation was Mueller’s second-in-command, Andrew Weissmann, and it’s time that he be held to account.
First, there are deeply vexing questions that remain to be answered about the Russia collusion scandal—and the American people deserve to know exactly what went on during this witch hunt.
For instance, when, precisely, did the investigation start? Why did the special counsel staff his team with lifelong Democrats who held a clear bias against the president? Why did Mueller’s team rely on unsubstantiated, partisan opposition research to justify spying on members of the Trump campaign?
Although Mueller was constrained by the Justice Department from discussing matters beyond the content of his report, he wouldn’t have been able to answer any of these questions even if he had been given free rein. Throughout his testimony, Mueller demonstrated an appalling lack of knowledge about even some of the most basic details of his own work.
In a jaw-dropping exchange with Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), for example, the former special counsel indicated that he was unfamiliar with Fusion GPS—the Democrat opposition research firm that compiled the infamous Steele dossier of salacious and unsubstantiated claims about President Donald Trump and Russia.
“When you talk about the firm that produced the Steele reporting, the name of the firm that produced that was Fusion GPS, is that correct?” Chabot asked.
“I’m not familiar with that,” Mueller responded.
Mueller often struggled to recall other basic facts of the investigation, as well, at times even contradicting the language of his report.
During a particularly cringeworthy exchange with Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Mueller insisted that the words “collusion” and “conspiracy” aren’t synonymous—despite the fact that his report clearly states otherwise.
Even the liberal media took notice of Mueller’s obvious confusion and lack of knowledge about the Russia investigation, with some calling his testimony a “disaster” for the Democrats. Politico counted 30 instances in which the former special counsel had to ask lawmakers to repeat their questions, and another 99 occasions when he said that he “can’t” or “won’t” answer a particular question.
Many observers have long suspected that Mueller didn’t write his own report on Russian election interference, and now, we know that he didn’t bother reading it, either.
Democrats will be eager to move on from this embarrassing episode, but Republicans shouldn’t be so quick to let Mueller and his team of rabidly anti-Trump operatives off the hook. If the former special counsel were merely a figurehead of the Russia investigation, the implication is that he let his second-in-command run the show from the very beginning.
Weissmann, a 2016 Hillary Clinton supporter, has a long record of prosecutorial abuse that would go a long way toward explaining the excesses and prosecutorial overreach that characterized this witch hunt and made it one of the most notorious federal investigations in history.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, should subpoena Weissmann to get the answers that his befuddled boss couldn’t provide, and hold him accountable for the many improprieties that destroyed the integrity of the entire Russia investigation. For years, the Democrats defended the collusion probe by pointing out that Mueller is a lifelong Republican—but the same can’t be said of Weissmann, who was a guest at Hillary Clinton’s Election Night party.
The only thing Mueller’s testimony revealed is that he was never truly in charge of the special counsel investigation. If the American people are ever going to learn the truth about that witch hunt, Senate Republicans will have to painstakingly extract it from the man who really ran the show—Weissmann.
Joseph diGenova was U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia and an independent counsel. He is the founding partner of diGenova & Toensing, LLP.