First thoughts on Mueller’s testimony

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The marine who received a purple heart for his exemplary service in Vietnam and spent most of his life working for the American people, spoke today. My question is, did the American people listen?

The vast majority of the people in this country has not read the Mueller Report. Anyone expecting to learn a great deal more about the report from Robert Mueller’s testimony today was going to be sorely disappointed. My expectations were low, to begin with, and after watching the nearly seven-hour spectacle, that opinion has not changed.

Based on his nine-minute press conference a few months ago, which culminated in his resignation from the Special Counsel’s office, it wasn’t hard to figure out that if called to testify, he would do so reluctantly, and would not veer from the report in any substantial way. And that’s precisely how it went today.

It was also easy to predict how both sides of the political aisle were going to conduct themselves. The Democrats would try and pry information out of Mueller, and the Republicans would try and investigate the investigators. Again, both sides satisfied that notion.

But it doesn’t mean that today was an exercise in futility either. I believe there was merit to having Mueller testify if nothing else than to alert the American people that the current President of the United States has conducted himself in a manner that undermines the office itself. Plus, in case there are those out there who don’t think that the Russians had anything to do with electing Trump, I think today’s testimony from Mueller went a long way to establish that fact, even though the President himself is still in complete denial.

In the morning session with the House Judiciary Committee, we saw Mueller either decline to answer questions or deflect them, well over one hundred times. It was either, “I can’t get into that” or “That’s not within my purview” or “I’ll let the report speak for itself.” Rarely did he go into any detail, much to the chagrin of both Republicans and Democrats. It wasn’t for lack of trying, of course. In other words, he could have played his entire nine-minute press conference over and over, and we wouldn’t have learned much more.

At first, I was a bit concerned with Mueller’s mental capacity. I’ve seen him testifying to Congress before, mostly when he was FBI director, and back then was much sharper. He seemed to have a grasp of the facts and was willing to go toe to toe with his questioners. Perhaps it’s just the fact that he’s older now. Or, maybe he was nervous. Whatever the reason, some of his responses were very weak, and at times, he stammered or hesitated when trying to accentuate individual facts. It made for quite a few uncomfortable moments throughout the hearing.

But here’s what we do know: There were at least ten instances of obstruction of justice that Mueller laid out in excruciating detail in Volume 11 of the report. We also know that he was never going to indict the President, because of the so-called Office of Legal Counsel opinion on that matter. The testimony did nothing to pour cold water on those facts, regardless of the Republicans trying to do just that. It’s now up to the Democrats to either proceed with impeachment … or not.

The afternoon session went somewhat better. And I think we owe much of that to the Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff. His way of questioning with Mueller elicited quick yes and no responses, and the line of questioning itself revealed a presidential campaign that conducted itself in ways unprecedented in American history. The idea that nobody on the campaign, including the candidate himself, contacted the FBI after receiving overtures from a foreign adversary should alarm every single person in the United States. Sadly, we know that there is roughly 40% of the population who will ignore such facts.

Schiff and the other Democrats on the committee were also able to establish with Mueller how the countless lies and obstructive acts from those involved with the campaign, impeded the investigation to such an extent, that he could not rule out that he may have reached a different conclusion if people had been more forthcoming.

Whereas the morning session overall did not rise to the level of anything dramatic as far as Mueller’s testimony, I do believe there were compelling sequences in the afternoon session.

When asked whether he agreed with the President that his investigation was a “witch hunt” or “hoax,” Mueller responded accordingly, “It was not a witch hunt, and it was not a hoax.” Hearing a direct rebuke to the President from the man himself cannot be underestimated. It goes to the countless tweets, constant insults, and outright disrespect the President has shown toward Mueller throughout the entire process.

Mueller also responded to Trump’s many references and promotions of WikiLeaks during the campaign. When informed that then CIA Director Mike Pompeo referred to WikiLeaks as the adversarial equivalent to a foreign intelligence service, Mueller did not disagree. He admonished Trump’s repeated touting of the illegally obtained material. The word he used was “problematic,” which in Mueller’s view, was an understatement.

Finally, we learned a bit about Mueller’s attempt to interview Trump himself. The whole process took about a year, finally resolved when Mueller agreed to send written questions to the President. A sit-down interview was the chosen outcome that Mueller sought, but in the end, a long and protracted court fight over a subpoena to compel his testimony was considered a waste of time.

Mueller confirmed to the Committee that Trump’s written responses to the written questions were, “incomplete, insufficient, and inadequate.” He expected more. There was no way Trump’s attorneys wanted him on that stand. We know why–the President doesn’t tell the truth.

As the hearing drew to a close this afternoon, Chairman Schiff finished with a flourishing round of questioning and statements that I feel put an exclamation point on the whole day. Some of the words he used to describe the Trump campaign’s actions were “disloyal,” “unethical,” “betrayal,” and “unpatriotic.” The view from those in the Trump camp and his supporters seem to be that unless there was actual criminal behavior that rose to the level of an indictment, nothing else matters. That could not be further from the truth.

And on this, Schiff was able to get Mueller to agree that yes, receiving help from a foreign adversary and not reporting it to the authorities, should NOT be the norm. He agreed that public officials must be held to a higher standard of integrity and trust. He would know, of course, because that’s how he has conducted himself throughout his lifetime of public service. It’s too bad that the current President will never reach this level of public decency.

As much as I wanted to reach through the television screen today to yell and scream at Mueller to defend his report more vigorously, I cannot bring myself to criticize the man. Who am I to tell a man of such stature that he should do such a thing? In the end, the former Vietnam Vet, prosecutor, and FBI Director did us all a favor, for the last time I’m sure. He took on the job because he was asked to do so. It’s that simple.

We will get the spin tonight, from both sides. I’m sure the President will declare victory, as he always does. Fox News will declare the whole testimony a disaster. The Democrats will proclaim differently of course. After all, it’s politics is it not?

If nothing else though, besides the troubling actions of Trump and his minions, we should take to heart what Mueller has said, in his report, and his testimony from today: The Russians attacked our electoral process and democracy itself and is doing it again as we speak. If this doesn’t wake up Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to finally allow a vote on election security measures, what’s it going to take?

23 comments

  1. I hope you had your antacid tablets close at hand … seven hours and you watched it all!!! You have both my admiration for your stamina, and my undying thanks for this well-articulated, honest assessment of today’s testimony. A few things I would comment …

    Bob Mueller is everything that Donald Trump is not: intelligent, thoughtful, honest, respectful, well-spoken, and a man of integrity.
    We knew his testimony would be very limited in scope, because a) he already said it would, and b) the Justice Department sent him a letter telling him what he could and could not talk about, and basically his hands were tied.
    You mention he didn’t seem as sharp as back in the days when he ran the FBI (2001-2013), but … it’s been a loooonnnnngggg six years, and I know I’m not as sharp as I was then, either! I strongly suspect this entire debacle with Trump, the Russians, and Trump’s blatant (no matter what the republicans claim) attempts to stifle the Mueller investigation have taken a toll, and he likely just wants to be left alone. If I were him, I’d be heading for a year in Switzerland in a little bunalow in the Alps, no phone, no internet, just peace and quiet.
    In my humble little opinion, his testimony did what it needed to do. He plainly stated that there WAS obstruction of justice, that Trump could well be subject to indictment when he leaves office, that Trump has sullied the office, and that the Russians interfered to a large extent and are continuing to do so today. It was as much as we could expect.
    I am outraged tonight over the taunts of republican pundits who say that the hearings were a “disaster” for democrats. No, they really weren’t … we proved our point, but those who choose to remain blissfully ignorant will continue to do so.
    Finally, I don’t know if this will be enough to finally convince Speaker Pelosi to open impeachment proceedings, but I hope so. I don’t know if it’s the right course of action, but I hope so. Trump has turned this nation into something very ugly. That will not go away with the end of his presidency, but we can only fight the monsters we can see, and right now he and his circus act are the monsters we’re seeing. Sigh.
    Great post, Jeff, and I shall re-blog shortly. Frankly, I was too exhausted to tackle the subject, and I owe you for doing such a great job of it!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Your very kind Jill…and thank you for the reblog. I agree with all you said. I cannot bring myself to be critical of Mueller. The guy was asked to do this thankless job, and he did it. He’s a stoic ex-marine and lifelong public servant. He’s honest to a tee. You’re so right, he’s everything Trump isn’t. And that’s why the idiot continues to insult the man. But, he sat there..took questions…and did the best he could.
      It seems like Pelosi may be warming to the idea of impeachment..at least from what I heard from this morning. She sure as hell can’t waste much more time with this. I’ll be really interested to see what kind of movement we see, if any, with the polls after his testimony. Anyone with an open mind will see this as damaging as hell for Trump. But, we know many still aren’t even paying attention. Fingers crossed!! Thanks again Jill!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. ‘Twas my pleasure, my friend. And no, they still aren’t listening, which is the frightening part of all this … there are some 40% of the people in this nation who are willing to chuck their values, morals, compassion and humanity for … what??? For a madman who will support their efforts to override Roe v Wade, and perhaps Obergefell v Hodges because their stupid evangelical leaders say those are “evil”? Sigh. If I could leave this country tomorrow, I’d be upstairs packing my bags tonight.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Don’t leave!! We need you!!! All kidding aside, I hear you. The crazy man is attacking Sweden now. Sweden! Last I checked, those people kind of like the country they live in…you know..that socialism thing…Right now, Sweden looks pretty damn good!! lol….have a great weekend Jill.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Eh, I’m not going anywhere … nobody else would have me! Yes, I saw his tweets about that rapper and his “demand” that they free him, despite the fact that he blatantly assaulted someone. Sigh. Such an embarrassment he is … and have you ever known a president before who had so much time on his hands to get involved in things that don’t even concern him and tweet endlessly? Sigh. You have a great weekend also, my friend.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I watched the first session but then had to go to work. I caught up on most of the second session when I got home. I’m doing a short recap myself for tomorrow morning with video clips but I’m with you — the Republicans were just so embarrassing. We knew from Mueller’s one other public appearance that he would be extremely sparing in his responses, so I don’t know why everyone’s rattling on about optics. Hello, we care about WHAT he said, not HOW he said it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I read your awesome piece this morning. Great job! I agree with you. The man was reluctant to be there. He’s not the type to want to get caught up in partisan B.S. He did us all a favor. If people actually heard what he said, there can be no other conclusion that this potus is a crook, who has committed impeachable offenses. Sadly, with all of the spin, I’m just not sure that’s where we are. Sigh!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Agreed. Those of us who pay attention know the president should be impeached, but we need the media to do their job well to get the facts out to the idea public. They have largely failed at that. We’ll see how today goes, but I’m feeling a “rant” post bubbling up in me…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Rant away. You do it well!! I feel like screaming from the mountain top. I’m near some mountains so maybe I’ll do just that!!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on Filosofa's Word and commented:
    Yesterday, at long last, former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified in a televised session before Congress … for nearly seven hours! I did not watch it, for a) I don’t have 7 hours to spare in any given day, b) I cannot sit and do nothing for more than about 5 minutes, which is why it takes me nearly a week to get through a movie, and c) I knew I could catch the action during and after the fact from a wide variety of sources.
    One of those sources is our friend Jeff over at On the Fence Voters, and he did not disappoint. His take on it is honest, unbiased, clear, and cuts through all the b.s. to wrap it all up into a neat, easily readable, OpEd. My comment on Jeff’s post will give you my opinion of it all. Thank you, Jeff, for writing this with such clarity and saving me 4-5 hours of work! I owe you one!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. IN MY HUMBLE BUT HONEST OPINION:

    What I disagree with through the whole investigation and right through today’s testimony, was Mueller’s attempt to keep his personal thoughts and feelings out of his report. If anyone is qualified to comment on the whole investigation it is Mr. Mueller himself. If he wanted to present his feelings as a member of the Republican Party, as a political non-partisan, or as a witchhunter, that would not have mattered to me. He is the only REAL EXPERT here, though any of his investigators could probably call themselves an expert on the part he or she or they investigated. As long as Mueller or whoever represents himself as who he/she is and testifies to what it is he/she knows “honestly and faithfully” under oath or affirmation, then their expert “opinions” should be allowed. Someone has to interptret their truth for “we the people,” and these folks who worked on that report are the only ones so qualified.
    To say they are not qualified, or unable to do so for whatever reason, is to abdicate their responsibility to their fellow citizens of America.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, there’s no doubt I wish he would have gone a bit further with his opinions. But, I knew that was never going to happen. It’s not who he is as a person. Near the end though, Adam Schiff was able to get some really important one word affirmations from him, that actually veered from the report. Of course it’s wrong to not report foreign outreach to a campaign. Of course it’s not patriotic. Of course it’s disloyal. And of course, in some cases, it could be a crime. He got Mueller to agree with those statements. I thought it was very important for the public to hear those answers from him. Just because he couldn’t find enough evidence that rose to the level of conspiracy, doesn’t mean it was ok. On the contrary, it was an abuse of the public trust, and pretty damn close to treason, in my view. Just don’t know if the overall public even cares. That’s an even bigger problem!

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      1. The fact they want him to win any way he can speaks to a lot of voters who have no idea what democracy is, but what they want it to be. Trump gives them what they want–“WeiBe uber alles.”

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Jeff, great post. I have read the Mueller report, but did not watch the testimony as I do not care for the posturing of politicians. What the president is reacting to is Mueller is unlike him. – he is more about reality than perception. Since Mueller is not effusive and skilled in spin doctoring, the president claims victory.

    This independent and former GOP and Dem voter’s conclusions from the Mueller report highlighted by a few testimonial tidbits I saw on the news.

    – The Russians clearly influenced our election and doing so right now.
    – The report documents that not only is the president less than truthful, his staff knows this (note, a KEY takeaway from the testimony is the answer Mueller gave that not only were Trump’s written answers incomplete and contradictory, but they were “generally’ untrue).
    – The president clearly attempted to obstruct justice and would have succeeded more if his staff did not refuse his orders
    – While no coordination was proven, there was a lot of lying going on by multiple parties which begs a lot of why questions, there was evidence that was not obtained or reviewed and there was a lot of contact with many Russians (Mueller noted in his testimony this is not ethical or appropriate).

    I would ask Republican leaders what they plan to do about securing our elections and why do they continue to defend a person where more questions need to be asked, not less. Keith

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Keith! Yes, just what the hell is Mitch McConnell going to do about it? Hell, just a day earlier the current FBI Director echoed the same thing about the Russians continuing to interfere. That he’s not doing a damn thing should be enough to march in the streets. How can the people of Kentucky keep electing this man? He finally caved on the 9/11 first responder bill because he was shamed into doing it. So maybe..just maybe public pressure will force him to do something. Not holding my breath!

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      1. Echoing what John Oliver said on his show over a month ago, if you think Trump will leave the White House with dignity, that is not going to happen. He will have to be dragged out.

        My guess is it is more than McConnell not wanting to hurt the president’s feelings. I believe if the president loses the election, he will cry foul and contest it, because that is what his nature tells him to do. I believe that is a reason he brough up voter fraud. I know this sounds Machiavellian, but nothing the president stoops to will surprise me. And, McConnell cannot go to the bathroom without being political. That is sad to say about one’s president and leader of the Senate. Keith

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Which brings us to a troubling scenario. If he does exactly what you say he will, if defeated..and I think it’s highly probable..would the American people head to D.C. to demand he get the hell out, a la Puerto Rico? I’d like to think that would happen. Anymore I’m just not sure. I hope it doesn’t come to that……

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for writing this. I listened to the first hearing, and that led to a session of cleaning therapy so I missed much of the second hearing. You sound like me in that I didn’t expect much to come from the hearing, and I was not disappointed in what I saw and heard. I expected Republicans to act like idiots, and they did not disappoint. I expected the Democrats to fail in trying to get Mueller to go beyond his report, and they also failed.

    The report tells everything America needs to know. I was not alive during Nixon’s term in office. Based on what I’ve read from that time, the Trump administration is like Nixon on steroids. I look at how members of Congress appear to be willing to not uphold the oath they took when they were sworn in, and it worries me that the current shenanigans of this administration will be come the norm. That is not the type of country I wish to live in to be honest, and I don’t know very few who would willingly live in such a country.

    Thanks again for the great read, and thanks to Jill for bringing me here. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s great to have you and thank you for taking the time to read. I agree with your points. We have a political party now that’s unrecognizable from the one that actually ended up telling the President of their party that the jig was up and it was time for him to go. You and I both know there’s nobody in this current iteration of the party that would do such a thing. I was alive during the Nixon hearings. My 5th or 6th grade teacher(not sure which) would bring the large TV on a rolling stand into our classroom and we actually watched the proceedings. I was one of the few to pay attention….my political ‘nerdism’ started early!
      Anyway, it had a profound affect on me. Until now, he was the biggest crook to ever occupy the office. Never thought I’d see another one who was worse. Well, we’ve got one now. I fear we will have to wait till 2020 to have a chance to kick him out. I hope I’m wrong. I hope Dems keep up the pressure. He must be held to account. Just not sure it’s going to happen soon enough. Thanks again…hope you come back!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I hope you’re right in that the Dems can somehow save the day in 2020. I’ve grown more and more apolitical over the years, so it feels odd to be pulling for a party now.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m a lifelong Dem. They certainly have disappointed me at times. But, I do feel they are the best choice more often than not. We have two parties in our system. I wish it wasn’t the case. I could not and would not ever vote for a Republican…certainly not where that party is these days. They aren’t going to change until they start losing multiple elections. They can’t cheat their way to victory forever. Can they? Ughhhhhh

        Liked by 1 person

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