Democrats who were waiting for an impeachment bombshell to drop during Robert Mueller’s testimony on Capitol Hill were sorely disappointed.
The at times seemingly befuddled Mueller presented little if anything new in his hours of testimony before Congress, and basically reiterated the “no collusion – no obstruction” conclusions of his report.
The former Special Counsel faced a barrage of questions from both sides, but it was House Republicans who called his impartiality in question and harshly rebuked him for his handling of the collusion and obstruction investigations into President Trump.
It was the first time, in the often contentious hearings, that Mueller was forced to confront those GOP lawmakers who have been most critical of the Russia Probe and its origins.
At the same time, the highly anticipated testimony offered little in the way of the kinds of new revelations that Democrats were hoping for. Far from an operatic rendition of the Mueller report that the Left was looking for to paint a damning picture of the President to the American public, Mueller’s testimony resembled more of a poorly orated audiobook. Viewers of the testimony found the former prosecutor stammering, stopping, evading answers mostly, and delivering those he did in a dull monotone absent of the hoped for dramatic flair of a made-for-TV courtroom drama.
In the end, the result of hours of grueling hearings before two House committees — like the report itself — was ambiguous. Mueller at times appeared flustered, often asking lawmakers to repeat questions while referring back to the report or stating topics were outside his purview whenever questioners sought to drag him outside the bounds of his written findings.
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Despite the kind of spin you may be hearing, or reading elsewhere, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats did not get the “Impeachment Bombshell” that they had hoped to from Mueller’s testimony.
Instead, they were left with little new material at the conclusion of Wednesday’s back-to-back hearings, as Republicans gloated that the spectacle failed to make the case to oust the president.
“It’s time for the curtain to close on the Russia hoax. The conspiracy theory is dead,” said Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., top Republican on the intelligence committee.
Mueller, however, did notably declare that, despite Trump’s assertions to the contrary, the report does not exonerate the President of obstruction of justice. Defending his probe, Mueller told House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., “It is not a witch hunt.”
And in a moment that could keep Democrats digging, Mueller replied, “yes,” when Colorado GOP Rep. Ken Buck on the Judiciary Committee asked if the President could be charged with a crime after he left office. Pressed if the president could be charged with obstruction after he left office, Mueller again replied, “Yes.”
Still, Mueller stood by his findings that there was no evidence of a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians during the 2016 election. Schiff, in the second hearing of the day, charged that Mueller’s report found that the Trump campaign “welcomed” Russia’s interference in the election – to which Nunes, quipped, “Welcome everyone to the last gasp of the Russian collusion conspiracy theory.”
Throughout the often combative hearings, and despite being strongly questioned by both Democrats and Republicans, Mueller repeatedly refused to drift beyond the bounds of his report.
This was, to an extent, expected as Mueller had signaled he would only address material already in the public record. But the absence of any political bombshells, coupled with a hearing performance by Mueller that was at times halting and flustered, left unclear whether anti-Trump Democrats would be able to use any of it to further their calls for impeachment.
“This is all about their last best chance of convincing the American people that the president ought to be impeached,” Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, told Fox News. “They haven’t succeeded thus far and I think this is that effort.”
When Republican Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana attempted to get an answer from Mueller on impeachment, the former special counsel wouldn’t bite.
Johnson said Democrats “desperately wanted you today to tell them they should impeach the president. The report does not recommend impeachment, does it?” he asked.
Mueller maintained that he was “not going to talk about recommendations,” and when pressed again on the “I”-word, he stated clearly that he was “not going to talk about that issue.”