Both Democrats and Republicans were left unsatisfied after former Special Counsel refused to play the part that Democrats and Republicans had cast him for. Notably, these parts were different: Democrats were looking for some kind of folk hero who would provide clarity on calls in the House for impeachment whereas Republicans were looking to completely vindicate President Trump and impugn the FBI. Mueller refused to play either part and gave answers that were, by turns, clipped, evasive, and pointed.
Wednesday morning through Wednesday afternoon saw Robert Mueller testify in front of Congress for a total of seven hours. Mueller patiently took questions first with the House Judiciary Committee then, after lunch, with the House Intelligence Committee. Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller extensively went through the 448-page report – the so-called Mueller Report – on Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible instances of obstruction of justice committed by the president.
One of the more interesting clarifications that Mueller repeatedly made during Wednesday’s testimony concerned the fact that he never made a determination on whether President Trump committed obstruction of justice or not. Why is that? Because a Department of Justice policy stemming from Watergate and the 1970s supposedly forbids bringing criminal indictments against the president; such indictments are said to be an undue encumbrance on a democratically elected president. In Mueller’s testimony, the former special counsel repeatedly clarified that charges were not considered because a criminal indictment was out-of-bounds and beyond the scope of Mueller’s mandate as special counsel.
The biggest overarching takeaway from Wednesday’s testimony was perhaps the fact that Robert Mueller refused to read sections, or even tiny excerpts, from the report that he and his team created over 22 months of investigation. Democrats had hoped to have a made-for-TV moment in which Robert Mueller read aloud the most damning evidence against the president whereas Republicans hoped that Mueller would declare Trump completely exonerated of all potential charges. Robert Mueller refused to appease either side and instead stuck closely to the report; in fact, the most common refrain that Mueller had to questions was something along the lines of, “that’s in the report.”
What’s to be made of Wednesday’s testimony? Mueller kept emphasizing that Russian election interference occurred in the 2016 presidential election and would recur in the upcoming election if steps were not immediately taken to protect democracy. Mueller further added that presidential indictment wasn’t considered.