Democrats Are Setting Themselves Up to Fail on Mueller Hearings

In a House Judiciary Committee hearing about the most controversial topic of the day 12 years ago, Robert Mueller provided testimony that sharply contradicted the sworn testimony of the Attorney General. He confirmed that the March 10, 2004 hospital confrontation between Jim Comey and the White House concerned a disagreement about the legality of the Stellar Wind warrantless wiretapping program, contrary to the earlier claims of Alberto Gonzales.

“I had an understanding that the discussion was on a N.S.A. program,” Mr. Mueller said in answer to a question from Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, Democrat of Texas, in a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee.

Asked whether he was referring to the Terrorist Surveillance Program, or T.S.P., he replied, “The discussion was on a national N.S.A. program that has been much discussed, yes.”

Mr. Mueller said he had taken notes of some of his conversations about the issue, and after the hearing the committee asked him to produce them.


In a four-hour appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Mr. Gonzales denied that the dispute arose over the Terrorist Surveillance Program, whose existence was confirmed by President Bush in December 2005 after it had been disclosed by The New York Times. Mr. Gonzales said it centered on “other intelligence activities.”

That event, like Russian investigation, involved a constitutional crisis and uncertain matters of law. It involved issues made more controversial by Jim Comey’s at times imperfect efforts to uphold principle. Mueller’s testimony specifically confirmed suspicions about the deceit and criminal exposure of the Attorney General, possibly contributing to his resignation a month later.

Sheila Jackson Lee — who remains on HJC — asked the question, and Mueller answered truthfully, and then provided evidence to back up his testimony.

And yet, even after studying Mueller’s past testimony to Congress (presumably including that hearing), House Democrats have themselves convinced that Mueller won’t be all that forthcoming in his hearing next week.

“I don’t think Mr. Mueller, based on everything I know about him, that anyone should expect any major departure from the contents of the report,” said Rep. David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. “I do think the contents of the report are so significant and so damning that when Mr. Mueller brings them to life and actually tells the American people … it will have an impact.”

The committees recognize that Mueller is a reluctant witness, and has stated he does not intend to answer questions beyond the contents of his report. The committee aides said they planned to respect Mueller’s desires but noted Congress isn’t bound by such limits. The aides anticipate questions will go beyond what’s written in the report, such as asking Mueller whether certain episodes detailed would have been crimes had they not involved the President — after Mueller said that his office followed Justice Department legal opinion that a sitting president cannot be indicted.


Mueller’s long government career has given the two committees plenty of material to study from Mueller’s past congressional appearances. The bottom line is they don’t expect Mueller to readily volunteer information, aides say, particularly given that he doesn’t want to testify before Congress.

As Jackson Lee demonstrated years ago, a properly phrased question will elicit an honest answer from Mueller.

But that’s not my main complaint about the reported preparations for Mueller’s testimony next week: it’s that Democrats have locked themselves into a division of labor — with HJC focusing on the evidence showing Trump obstructed justice and the House Intelligence Committee focusing on details of Trump’s enthusiasm for the Russian attack — that leaves out the larger framework of the investigation (and aftermath), may not touch on the area that, given the focus of his press conference, Mueller’s likely to be most forthcoming about (the extent of the Russian operation), and threatens to make a weaker case for both obstruction and “collusion.”

I hope to finally write my narratology of the Mueller Report to lay out the latter point. My questions for Mueller (which I’ll update before next Wednesday) include some that — like the Jackson Lee question twelve years ago — are factual questions that may do more to illuminate the actions of others than questions designed solely to get Mueller to recapitulate what’s already in the report.

But one of the biggest reasons I’m concerned about this approach is that Democrats are adopting a structure Mueller did –separating Trump associates’ efforts to obstruct an investigation into a possible conspiracy from Trump’s own efforts to obstruct an investigation into a conspiracy — that serves to water down the impact of the report.

This report was not, as most people commenting on it seem to believe, a report “of what Mueller found.” Rather, it is strictly limited to prosecutorial decisions, and as such doesn’t include evidence Mueller obtained that’s not important to explain why he chose to charge people or not.

His report produced the following prosecutorial decisions: 

As noted with the shading the break between Volume I and Volume II is not actually a break between the conspiracy investigation (Russia’s interference in the election and Trump Associates’ ties with Russia) and the obstruction investigation (matters arising from the investigation). Prosecutorial decisions relating to the cover-up appear in both Volume I and Volume II. It’s unclear why Mueller organized it like that (this would actually be an interesting question); perhaps he did it because he didn’t reach a prosecutorial decision about Trump or perhaps because he wanted to provide an impeachment referral for Congress.

But the effect of the organization is that it severs the discussion of the suspicious actions from the efforts to cover up those actions.

To illustrate why this is important, consider the June 9 meeting. The actual events behind that are:

  • Don Jr willingly accepted dirt on Hillary offered as part of the Russian government’s support for Trump
  • According to two witnesses, Trump probably knew about the meeting ahead of time (but did not plan a speech around it, as some suspected)
  • Don Jr and Emin Agalarov had several conversations about what the meeting would be
  • At the meeting, Don Jr agreed to consider sanctions relief even after he grew fed up that the dirt wasn’t very interesting
  • When the Trump team identified this meeting as an area of focus for Congressional and other investigations, Trump repeatedly responded in a way that — according to Hope Hicks — was totally uncharacteristic; either he or she also considered withholding the evidence from investigators
  • Trump personally issued a blatantly misleading statement on the meeting (after talking with Putin about that cover story, though that detail doesn’t show up in the report, which is another thing worth asking about)
  • Although he willingly sat for interviews with three Congressional committees — even after the report came out — Don Jr refused to appear before the grand jury
  • Emin Agalarov canceled an entire concert tour to avoid being questioned about the meeting or — more importantly — what he told Don Jr on those phone calls

From the point of view of the crime of obstruction of justice, the June 9 meeting is the weakest case, in part because Don Jr avoided getting caught in a lie about it (and so was not charged in parallel with Flynn and Stone). Given their focus on treating Volume II as an obstruction of justice impeachment referral rather than the complete cover-up, HJC is not treating this incident. But it’s one of the most damning examples showing that Trump and his family acted to accept Russian help.

And consider how Manafort’s sharing of polling data will get watered down with this approach to questioning. One of the most obvious ways to illustrate the impact of Trump’s obstruction is to lay out that Mueller was never able to establish why Manafort was trading Ukraine away at a meeting where he also discussed how to win MI and WI. It looks like a smoking gun, but Mueller was never able to fully investigate it (Manafort’s use of encryption helped things along here, too). And one key reason why he was never able to investigate it is because Manafort believed Trump would pardon him if he lied, and he did lie.

Note, too, that while Mueller notes that Manafort lied in footnotes, unless he’s the redacted person who lied to the grand jury in the prosecutions section, Mueller did not describe his prosecutorial decision not to charge Manafort for lying to the grand jury in that section.

As laid out (according to these reports), HPSCI is going to investigate the equivalent of the Watergate burglary, while HJC will investigate the cover-up of the burglary. Worse, HJC will go first, so it’s not like people watching the entire day will have been reminded about the burglary before HJC delves into the cover-up of it.

In other words, dividing the questioning the way reports say the committees will separates a discussion of the cover-up from the actions Trump covered up. That, in turn, makes it a lot harder to show that one reason Mueller didn’t collect enough evidence to charge a conspiracy is because of that cover up.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

41 replies
  1. Anvil Leucippus says:

    I have resigned myself to the strong possibility that Trump, and his ilk, will not be held accountable during his time in office. Not in any just sense, anyway. And I am not holding much hope of some sort of Frost/Nixon situation, later, where Trump admits his crimes.

    At this point, I would be happy if we get through this without a Congresswoman of color getting gunned down by some MAGA-hat chud. Or Trump not asking the courts to decide a close election because he won’t accept the results. Or another kid dying in DHS custody. If we can get through this without any of those happening, I will fall to my filthy knees and find religion.

    • Marinela says:

      You are not alone thinking this way. Trump is getting away so far. The enablers in my opinion are the ones that should be held accountable.

      Trump is just one person, without these disgusting enablers he would be in jail by now.

      US is destroying itself from within, just like the Roman empire did a while ago. Will end up with a hallow country, like Russia, where the system works only for the top, bribes are common throughout the fabric of society, stagnate society. When these MAGA hats are starting to really hurt economically, the minorities, immigrants are going to be targeted. The seeds are planted now. Scary stuff.
      Supposedly now we have a great economy, everything is rosy, but the MAGA people celebrate with rallies and chants like “Send her back”, “Lock her up”, etc.
      When the tide turns, and it will, what are they capable of, when controlled by a shameless incompetent without conscience?

    • Effem says:

      We already had a Congressman shot for ideological reasons…didn’t seem to cost anyone much sleep.

  2. Badger Robert says:

    Thanks for the article.
    I wonder if the committee’s can focus on how the co-operation was co-ordinated to blunt the effect of disclosure’s about the candidates playboy lifestyle, which involved dodging campaign finance laws to delay damaging revelations?
    So it turns out that Cohen was set up to be the patsy.

      • Badger Robert says:

        That too.
        Ms. Wheeler does a good job of illustrating the difficulty in getting Mueller to get the narrative to progress. Hopefully a good deal of time will be given to staff attorneys who have let Mueller know what is coming.
        I think the fact it was delayed is an indication that there may be a plan.

        • Jockobadger says:

          I sure hope you’re right, Badger, wrt “a plan” being hatched.

          As for Cohen, I’m not at all convinced that anyone in that crowd is either A) smart enough or B) organized enough to make him the patsy. Right now they’re probably just thanking their lucky stars (or in Hope’s case, thanking Dog) that he ended up taking the fall – at least for now!

          I have a secret dream of Epstein singing like a canary backed up by a safe full of blackmail.

        • Hops says:

          “… may be a plan” … surely they are not so daft as to not have a pretty good idea how this will unfold.

          I think the Dems will ask questions answered in the report, which Mueller will basically read, and dems will only try to rephrase in plain English. Republicans will follow orders and try to paint the investigation as a left-wing conspiracy, and I expect Mueller to slam them hard.

  3. Democritus says:

    Thank you Dr Wheeler. I am afraid if we don’t impeach on Trumps actual high crimes, of which are legion- he abuses the power of office for personal gain routinely.

    Before I start in below note IANAL and this is just a citizens view after a wee bit of research.

    Legal Definition of high crime
    : a crime of infamous nature contrary to public morality but not technically constituting a felony

    From the legal dictionary at Free dictionary link below. It start with some think High Crimes are just felonies but that is NOT the accepted view, especially in English common law (well I think so at least, from what I read.)

    “The generally accepted viewpoint is much broader. It defines high crimes and misdemeanors as any serious abuse of power—including both legal and illegal activities. Supporters of this reading believe that because impeachment is a public inquiry, first and fore-most, it is appropriate to read the phrase broadly in order to provide the most thorough inquiry possible. Thus, a civil officer may face impeachment for misconduct, violations of oath of office, serious incompetence, or, in the case of judges, activities that undermine public confidence or damage the integrity of the judiciary.”

    Trumps “crimes” fit that to a T.

    If not now when, he will just usurp more and more power.

    • Democritus says:

      To be clear I didn’t not really care what they impeach him on so long as they impeach and put Trump back on his heels.

      I’m just still sick to my stomach from how fast he dived to the bottom. I have known it would get worse since I saw Sheldon Adelson 10 million gift, but I thought I could handle it better than I can. Too much hate.

    • MattyG says:

      I’m just a citizen but my understanding of Constitutional Impeachment is that it describes a remedy Congress may use to remove a President for reasons other than simply breaking the law; breach of public trust, distinguishing bribery from mere payment for services rendered and such. And that normal law applies to the President implicitly as it does all other constitutional officers. I’m continually puzzled by scholarship claiming a president can’t be prosecuted for breaking normal laws.

  4. Badger Robert says:

    If impeachment proceeds I think there are findings that conclude Trump committed disloyal acts which defrauded the election process. I doubt that there is any referral to the Senate.
    The findings could include that the President’s political support in the Senate is not willing to consider the findings of culpability.
    There is a way to construct an ending to the impeachment inquiry.

    • fpo says:

      This is the best ‘best case’ scenario that I can envision – a more visible public airing and discussion of what actually happened via an inquiry – but short of referral to the Senate. The Senate vote is pre-ordained – and would ultimately provide Trump the ‘I told you so – case closed’ argument he/the GOP have already adopted.

      With the KFC/Kentucky Fried Chicken committee hearing as one example, I’m nervous about the Dems ability to avoid the kind of hearing room antics that play right into Trump/GOP hands. Does anyone know – will Reps exclusively be responsible for asking questions during Mueller’s testimony? Some I can think of would be all business and on point, others not so much – and further complicated by the glaring continuity issue MW raises with her post here.

  5. Desider says:

    The case of Katie Johnson came out Oct 2016, about same time as Stormy, accusing Trump of childhood rape, and disappeared the same day they were feeling their oats for Pizzagate (note the likely projection there). Is there a money trail like with Stormy’s? Is there a convo with Cohen, Davidson, Hope Hicks as well? What other women did Cohen pay off in the campaign, and was Broidy’s $1.2 million actual a cover for a Trump payoff?
    (Yeah, I should read the Mueller reports, tho have a feeling these points aren’t answered)

    • Desider says:

      Looking at this more, the Katie Johnson bit is quite questionable – hard to tell if she even exists, much less if her complaint is valid, etc. Mea culpa. Back to the known cases.

  6. harpie says:

    o/t sorry…but wow!
    George Nader, Witness in Mueller Probe, Hit With New Charges of Sex Trafficking The key cooperator faces additional child-porn charges in a new indictment to be unsealed Friday.
    Erin Banco Published 07.19.19 10:40AM ET

    George Nader, who was a key witness in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, has been hit with new federal charges of child pornography, sex trafficking, and obscenity, according to a person familiar with the case.
    The charges come on top of separate child-porn charges leveled by the same prosecutors last month. The new indictment is set to be unsealed Friday morning in the Eastern District of Virginia, according to the person.
    The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Nader’s attorneys declined to comment. Nader is expected to enter a plea on the charges this morning. […]

    What a cesspool.

    • harpie says:

      Of course, Marcy was already having a conversation with Laura Rozen and Lemonslayer about it:
      7:51 AM – 19 Jul 2019

      Replying to @lrozen @emptywheel
      One the arguments that SDNY successfully used for no bail against Epstein was that sex trafficking charges require a presumption of no bail. Wonder if this means Nader will face the same no bail situation as well.

      I was just reading the Epstein doc, and I think this is what Lemonslayer meant:

      [p.1] […] This is a federal as opposed to a state case. We proceed under federal law and federal rules. The key federal statute that applies here is 18 U.S.C. § 1591 which sets forth the crime of sex trafficking with which Mr. Epstein is charged.

      Mr. Epstein is also charged with conspiring with others to commit sex trafficking under 18 U.S.C. § 371. With respect to the issue of remand versus release, 18 U.S.C. § 3142 applies. It sets forth a presumption in favor of remand, an exception to the presumption in most cases which favors [p.2] pretrial release.

      § 3142 states that: “if there is probable cause to believe that the person committed … an offense involving a minor victim under section … 1591,” then “it shall be presumed that no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the appearance of the person as required and the safety of the community.” 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e)(3)(E) (emphasis added);

  7. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    But that’s not my main complaint about the reported preparations for Mueller’s testimony next week: it’s that Democrats have locked themselves into a division of labor — with HJC focusing on the evidence showing Trump obstructed justice and the House Intelligence Committee focusing on details of Trump’s enthusiasm for the Russian attack — that leaves out the larger framework… and threatens to make a weaker case for both obstruction and “collusion.”

    … factual questions that may do more to illuminate the actions of others than questions designed solely to get Mueller to recapitulate what’s already in the report.

    But one of the biggest reasons I’m concerned about this approach is that Democrats are adopting a structure Mueller did –separating Trump associates’ efforts to obstruct an investigation into a possible conspiracy from Trump’s own efforts to obstruct an investigation into a conspiracy — that serves to water down the impact of the report.

    This report … is strictly limited to prosecutorial decisions, and as such doesn’t include evidence Mueller obtained that’s not important to explain why he chose to charge people or not.

    [Comment prelude] Having had to deal with a chronic condition, I’ve become more and more interested in how any organism (mammal, ocean, society) remains healthy — or is able to recover some semblance of health. This has moved me to a strong interest in elements of the immune system, particularly lymph. [Your heart pumps your blood with every heartbeat; your lymph moves only in response to activity or massage. If your lymph is not moving, your immunity is impaired.] I am of a mind that the justice system, in its ideal form, is an essential feature of any social organism (tribe, city, nation), and that when justice is impaired, the overall organism becomes dysfunctional and is endangered. We have seen this to be true in many places: totalitarian states, where justice becomes a tool of power, rather than functioning as a means to maintain cohesive social relationships. As social creatures, we are all in greater danger if our sense of justice (fairness, respect) is impaired.

    Hence, I read this post through a lens of anxiety that our overall system of governance and the delivery of justice has become so sclerotic, overwhelmed, and impaired that the justice system is losing resilience. It’s becoming like a wheelchair patient that is losing its capacity to walk and run.

    IMVHO, Marcy is pointing to a problem that is imperative for us to recognize quickly: a kind of fractured, granular thinking that blinds us to The Big Picture.

    The Dems can ask factual questions, but the questions should focus on informing the public about The Bigger Picture behind the list of decisions about who to prosecute.

    For instance: how was Manafort able to link with a Russian/Ukrainian [Kilimnik], who then passed polling data to Cambridge Analytica? And if Manafort either lied about this, or else refused to answer, who is he so afraid of that he won’t talk? And what does any of this say about reining in K Street? Has K Street become the consigliere to the Russian mob…? If that’s the case, let’s discuss: we’re not such a nation of wimps that we can’t face such a threat. But we need a correct diagnosis before we can respond with a sound strategy.

    And so on, and so forth.
    Also, the Dems badly need to have some kind of ongoing chart, or diagramming process, that viewers/readers can reference as they ‘fill in the pieces’ so that everyone has a shared framework moving forward. Again, just as a blood lab lists out sample data, and just as an anatomical diagram maps out the body, we need to see ‘the shape of things’. Many people are more visual than auditory: they need to *see* in order to understand relationships. One more Senate hearing of blahBlahBlah is only going to reinforce a sense of despair and alienation among people whose tax dollars fund the hearings.

    A nation full of rock bands, jazz bands, softball leagues, coffee shops, hospitals, community centers, chemistry labs, parks, and children deserves the kind of resilience and immunity best provided by a strong system of justice.

    The Dems need to keep faith with the communities that sent them to Congress by helping us all understand what happened, who dunnit, and what we need to do going forward. I feel as if I’m cheering on a wheelchair patient, telling them to move, move, move and recover their capacity for health. (Sweet Jesus, this must be the weirdest comment that I have e-v-e-r left here in 12+ years…)

    Unfortunately, if the Dems fail to grasp Marcy’s insight, and adapt accordingly, I fear this will just be one more epic fail. If they simply follow Mueller’s structure, we’ll get all the details, but the larger meaning will escape us. That would be a disaster.

    • rip says:

      Dear readerOfTeaLeaves: This one “For instance” encapsulates a whole world of important questions. I’m sure there are many looking at the micro facts as well as the meta information. Some of these linkages may be above these, and much harder to tease out.

      For instance: how was Manafort able to link with a Russian/Ukrainian [Kilimnik], who then passed polling data to Cambridge Analytica? And if Manafort either lied about this, or else refused to answer, who is he so afraid of that he won’t talk? And what does any of this say about reining in K Street? Has K Street become the consigliere to the Russian mob…? If that’s the case, let’s discuss: we’re not such a nation of wimps that we can’t face such a threat. But we need a correct diagnosis before we can respond with a sound strategy.

      • Americana says:

        Manafort and Kilimnik were already in contact and cahoots over Manafort’s pro-Russian Ukraine gov’t business efforts before Manafort thought to join the Trump campaign as his means of getting-out-of-debt to the tune of $13+ MILLION to OLEG DERIPASKA.

        Yep, I would guess Manafort and Stone both are too scared to talk about certain specifics of what they know for identical reasons. Although it’s clear they also have some protection in that their untimely deaths would trigger something huge and unpredictable in the way of an investigation. So I’m hoping for material to be found that proves what I’ve long suspected ever since Roger Stone was so conveniently “fired” by the Trump campaign. When Trump says, “You’re fired!” the way he handled the Stone firing w/all that silly public hooplah in a bizarre and insincere press conference that was meant to convince us it was a legitimate firing, one always knows it was a Trump fake to right field and Trump thinks he’s going to saunter down to the end zone and score.

        Ugh, the smugness of Trump when he thinks he’s home free is grating… especially when Stone shows up on the Trump radar not long after and they resume their bromance. Stone was playing a cut-out role of momentous significance to the Trump campaign — this is the only schematic that makes sense and covers every aspect of these events from the intelligence to the personal relationship between the two.

  8. Mosey says:

    “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” — Benjamin Franklin

  9. RWood says:

    My biggest question is whether Mueller will use language at some point that paints Nancy into a corner on impeachment. It will have to be something rather bold and rather blunt, but above all it has to leave her with no way out.

    I can only imagine and/or hope that his frustration level, like mine, has reached its peak and he’s ready to unload on her in a way we’ve never seen before.

    Will this happen? I doubt it. I think we’ll get Mr. by-the-book again and effective sound-bites will be few, leaving the likes of Hannity and the other propaganda crew to spin it away into oblivion.

  10. Gnome de Plume says:

    I’ve been wanting to say this for a long time: I worked with Shelia Jackson Lee when I lived in Houston in the 80’s. She now sits in Barbara Jordan’s seat. “Sheila, if you’re listening, call on your inner Barbara Jordan and make history like she did.”

    • bmaz says:

      Gnome – First off you comment all too rarely recently, please do so more commonly as in the old days, we need that. Secondly, you are exactly right about both Jordan and Lee.

    • fpo says:

      “Who can so properly be the inquisitors for the nation as the representatives of the nation themselves? The subjects of its jurisdiction are those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men. And that’s what we’re talking about. In other words, [the jurisdiction comes] from the abuse or violation of some public trust.”

      “It is wrong, I suggest, it is a misreading of the Constitution for any member here to assert that for a member to vote for an article of impeachment means that that member must be convinced that the President should be removed from office. The Constitution doesn’t say that. The powers relating to impeachment are an essential check in the hands of the body of the Legislature against and upon the encroachments of the Executive. The division between the two branches of the Legislature, the House and the Senate, assigning to the one the right to accuse and to the other the right to judge, the Framers of this Constitution were very astute. They did not make the accusers and the judgers — and the judges the same person.”

      “We know the nature of impeachment. We’ve been talking about it awhile now. It is chiefly designed for the President and his high ministers to somehow be called into account. It is designed to “bridle” the Executive if he engages in excesses. “It is designed as a method of national inquest into the conduct of public men.”² The Framers confided in the Congress the power if need be, to remove the President in order to strike a delicate balance between a President swollen with power and grown tyrannical, and preservation of the independence of the Executive.”

      (Excerpted from) Rep. Barbara Charline Jordan’s ‘Statement of the Articles of Impeachment.’ July 25, 1974, House Judiciary Committee.
      As inspiring as it is sobering in these troubled times.

      [ ] full text, pdf and audio

  11. dimmsdale says:

    This is one of the most profoundly depressing posts I’ve ever read here; not necessarily by itself (which I’d sum up as: “Congressional Democrats: The Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight”—spotlight on the news, ho-hum) but in conjunction with a dawning awareness of how much this gang of thugs and monsters is going to get away with thanks to Bill Barr evidently quashing federal investigations into Trump’s garbage children and his corrupt campaign practices, the apparently penalty-free dodging of congressional subpoenas by said goons and monsters; and now an ill-conceived effort on the part of congressional Democrats to compartmentalize the hearings in such a way that the findings of the Mueller report will be further clouded instead of clarified.

    And are these HJC and HPSCI hearings planned as substitutes for full-bore impeachment hearings? With ill-prepared congresspeople, rather than professional counsel, asking the questions? It is increasingly difficult for me to see how our democracy survives, with “our side” continually getting rolled, or shooting itself in the foot by avoiding even the appearance of effective and creative opposition, and hoping that somehow 2020 elections will reverse what Team Blue has been unable, or unwilling, to do?

    It looks to me like they’re going to get away with it. ALL of it. Am I wrong?

  12. Eureka says:

    I’m glad you wrote this (and created another helpful visual aid) and spelled out how the HPSCI-HJC split is revisiting bad structure upon bad structure (MR)– in addition to everything else you spelled out. My hope is that they also read things like Jed Shugarman’s DB piece ~ last week+ which re-entwines the conspiracy and the obstruction. One HJC dem (of the couple I pay most attention to) recently had the RU-plot/obstruction split in her writing (when there had been a post-MR movement to include the conspiracy language). But she was recently speaking mindfully re Mueller’s point about the third rail* of Russia’s “interference” efforts and Trump wallowing in all of the assistance (hacks, trolls, contacts). (Mueller’s “bipartite” (“-ish” as you observe) report structure, with Barr’s gaslighting introduction to the two volumes, has really confounded nascent efforts here and there to speak smoothly and uniformly about the whole damned thing.)

    A couple things that give me hope that they are not *really* limiting themselves to the four corners: visits to the Mueller Vault and my own impression of Nadler, etc., that they are tamping down pre-game talk of getting Mueller to leave those bounds so as not to inflate the GOP hype machine. I hope that such cleverness is not too much to be expecting– as opposed to genuine self-limiting /direction-following– but that is a possible read of HJC-ers recent comments, including Nadler’s ~”we’ll see” in response to Hayes’ question on that on Thursday.

    *That he divided the RU efforts into three categories: the hacks, the trolls, and the hordes of approaches to the Trump campaign/affiliates.

  13. Tom says:

    I agree with readerOfTeaLeaves above (July 19th 1:00 pm) that the Democrats will have to focus their questioning of Mueller on “The Big Picture”. This can’t be seen as just an attempt to put Trump in jail, as Nancy Pelosi said some weeks ago. Certainly Mueller bracketed his May 29th public statement with warnings about Russian interference in the U.S. electoral process as a matter that “should concern every American”, and that’s the approach the Democrats should take; i.e., that they’re ringing the alarm about Russia’s continuing efforts to undermine not only America, but other Western democracies as well.

    Of course, the Democrats won’t be able to avoid discussing the President and his actions, but Trump’s attempts to obstruct justice should be clearly identified as being efforts not just to save his own skin, but to hinder and shut down the investigation into Russia’s sabotage of the 2016 election, thus placing the country that he professes to love in mortal danger. Given his statement on May 29th, this is likely a topic that Mueller will be willing to speak about at length and with conviction and authority, as he saw it all firsthand. Let the Republicans be seen as doing Putin’s work for him with their wallowing in conspiracy theories and efforts to ‘investigate (i.e., discredit) the investigators’.

  14. orionATL says:

    the greater the familiarity with the osc report, the greater the questions that naturally arise about why mueller’s team made this or that prosecutorial decision. one of the unproductive avenues of questioning some house members might follow would be antagonistic questions about why Mueller did not do something in his investigation , e.g., charge someone like hope hicks with perjury. as interesting as the answers might be, questions like that would waste precious time.

    as for wasting time, is it too much to hope that democrat members would yield their time to one of their skilled legal staff (or the their chair if he is competent ) with an outline of questions the dem side of the committee would like to see answered – an outline with a focus on the quid pro quo of the calculated manipulation of the 2016 voting results by the trump and putin forces, and the foreign policy promissory notes issued to the Russians by trump?

  15. orionATL says:

    oh look! a wee twerp named nicholas fandos, writing for the nytwit times, can predict the future:

    “…Democratic hopes are rising [sic] on an unlikely horse. Mr. Mueller has made his reluctance to testify widely known, and his appearance could easily backfire. If the hearings fail to sizzle, the viewing public could be left agreeing with the president that it is time to move on… [oh no! oh woe! poor democrats! once again!]

    “A lot of public attitudes have hardened on the subject of Trump and Russia,” said Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee. “So I’m realistic about the impact of any one hearing on public attitudes.”..”

    this is all one paragraph. is there a contradiction posed by the prose of our young Cassandra?


    “the viewing public could be left…”, the viewing public? are you kidding?

    the lad seems not to consider that many millions of american citizens already have a personal view of the osc’s discoveries, report aside, together with a negative view of the trump presidency. most won’t watch the hearings or read the times predictions of history.

    when will journalist stop trying to create history or predict history and just do a competent job of reporting what they see and hear?

  16. Savage Librarian says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with Marcy’s assessment of the potential flaws in the reported plan for questioning Mueller. It is imperative that the narrative proceed logically and end in clear conclusions.

    I suggest that someone who excels at storytelling skills should review the planned process and questions. Keep questions as clear and simple as possible. Complex, compound questions are difficult to comprehend and follow.

    The overarching narrative is of Russian interference, which is far more than cyber attacks. Mueller knows this and emphasized this at his press conference. This is important to him. So, this is very important to us. In his very reserved way, he has invited us to ask about this!

    Most people want a beginning, middle and end. Think of the fable of the blind men and the elephant. Because each focused on one aspect (the ear, the tusk, the tail, the leg, the trunk) their compartmentalized concept of the animal ended up in vast, chaotic disagreements about reality.

    Remember, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Don’t begin the hearings bass-ackwards. Perhaps Intelligence should go first and Judiciary should follow. More than anything, there needs to be a compelling story!

    • Vicks says:

      I can’t imagine Muellers testimony changing things for most of the folks already engaged, the point should be to use “storytelling” to first engage and then enrage the newbies tuning in for the first time.
      If this works there will be plenty of time in the inquiries and hearings to use timeline trivia to nail down a particular crime.
      I would suggest having Mueller describe the crime of obstruction of justice, and then ask him to walk us through several of the examples he gave in the report and describe how Trump’s actions fit the description of the crime. The obvious next question is did Donald Trump on multiple occasions commit obstruction of justice? Extra points if they can (quickly) work in some of the cover up attempts by Trump puppets and establish if their actions should also be consider obstruction.
      I’d have Mueller walk through some of the more shocking examples of bad behavior from volume one, and if he believes that his inability to convict for conspiracy on the incident had anything to do with his inability to investigate freely ask him him to connect the dots so we understand exactly which of the examples of Trump commiting a crime to link this to.
      This is probably the last/best opportunity to get the attention of the rest of America.
      No excuses your local evening news Wednesday night HAS to lead with “shocking new information from the Mueller report”
      All the information to have people outraged and googling “impeachment” is right freaking there in the report.

Comments are closed.