Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller has been such a profound disappointment — a surprise very much on the downside — that I don’t know what to hope for in his upcoming national testimony that isn’t just setting myself up for another disappointment.
I expected great things from him — not just because I’m given to hope, but also because of the way so many sensible people who’d worked with him spoke go glowingly about him, almost in awe.
It seemed certain that the man they were describing would do his very utmost to protect the nation, to help America come through the crisis created by the Trump presidency in the best possible shape, and to protect the rule of law to which he’d devoted a sterling career marked by high competence and complete integrity.
To begin with, there were serious disappointments regarding the Mueller Report itself.
*NOTE: Last week, in a piece posted here, I questioned the notion that the investigation could not establish, in the words of the Mueller Report, “that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government.” But the case about that was powerfully made by was the legal scholar, Jed Shugerman, who, on the “Daily Beast,” argues that the Mueller Report made a serious “error” on that point, documenting the considerable evidence constituting “coordination” that falls within the meaning that Congress intended when it wrote the relevant law.
But even if the Report itself were everything it should have been, I would have expected Mueller to have behaved completely differently regarding his opportunity to give nationally televised testimony before Congress. For example….
The other day, on TV, I heard a very respectable legal commentator — who has been illuminating throughout this whole Trump constitutional crisis — say that the question he’d like to have Mueller asked is, “If it weren’t for the Justice Department opinion that a sitting president can’t be indicted, would you have indicted President Trump?”
Good question, certainly: an opportunity for Mueller to tell the American people something that they really need to hear — i.e. that the President of the United States has acted in a criminal way that, by attempting to put himself above the law, is a fundamental threat to the constitutional order.
But then this commentator tells us that he foresees Mueller quite likely refusing to answer such a question.
Which immediately brings me to into contact with that place of profound disappointment with Mueller.
And brings me also to great puzzlement: Why would Robert Mueller be so resistant to this opportunity to fulfill his mission— a mission that included helping the American people to know what was going on with this presidency?
Surely, educating the citizenry on this situation is of critical importance.
When the United States finds itself with a President such as the person Mueller has depicted in his 400+ page careful report — a President who has been acting with contempt for the rule of law and the Constitution — the citizens have a crucial role to play in the nation’s process of navigating that a difficult and dangerous passage.
It’s important for the citizens to understand that what Robert Mueller’s team has depicted poses precisely the kind of threat — a lawless chief executive and commander-in-chief — that led our founders to make sure the system supplied the necessary tool — impeachment — to protect itself.
(Vital to impeach such a President, given that the president wields such great power. You simply do not leave a President who is so lawless and reckless in office for one day more than is necessary.
(With Trump, there are national security concerns, as well: Who knows what kind of unnecessary war he might get us into, as seemed to have almost happened with Iran in June? And the question remains just how much is he serving Russian interests, what with his really corrupt-looking relationship with Putin?)
So helping the citizens see what must be seen, and support the actions that must be taken, is an essential task.
And for that task, nobody in America is better positioned to help the American people understand the nature of the threat to our democracy and our national interests this President represents. Nobody could do as much as Mueller could to help America’s citizenry recognize that his Report is a “Roadmap to Impeachment” (as some have described it — using the phrase applied to Independent Counsel Jaworski’s report on Nixon, which led straight away into an impeachment process).
But Mueller, far from eager to help make sure that the rule of law triumphs over lawlessness, has been resisting that role throughout.
- Mueller apparently had to be subpoenaed to get him to come and speak to a nationally televised audience.
- He apparently has greatly limited the amount of time he’ll give to such public testimony.
- He declares that the Report speaks for itself, but — for the overwhelming majority who will never read it, and for the big chunk of the American electorate to whom a corrupt Attorney General Barr deliberately confused with a false narrative — it clearly does not speak for itself.
- And now we’re hearing people who know him express their expectation that Mueller will be cagey and restrained, not forthcoming.
What explains his apparent desire to minimize rather than maximize his impact at this moment of national crisis?
Why isn’t the heroic warrior who volunteered to go from Princeton to Viet Nam to fight for his country volunteering to fight hard for his country now, when we face this threat and when he’s in a position to do so much to protect the very heart of the nation?
Why isn’t this man with the most sterling reputation in America, — as we heard when he was first named Special Prosecutor — doing the most effective job he can to help the rule of law prevail over a serious threat we now face that it is LAWLESSNESS that will triumph?
(If he’s not the man we were led to believe he was, just who is he?)
Must we be reconciled to the prospect of Mueller holding back as much as he can from speaking plainly, unwilling to draw conclusions, squandering his opportunity to put his findings into a meaningful perspective that helps citizens understand their stakes regarding the picture of the presidential reality his investigation has uncovered?
Is there anything that can be done to try to awaken Mueller to the ways that his appearance on July 17 represents the biggest opportunity by far in his distinguished career to advance the fundamental well-being of the nation?
[July 17 or whenever: as of Friday evening, according to reports, new uncertainties beset the expectations of Mueller’s testimony]
I hope he surprises me this time on the upside.
Here are three questions that I’d like for Mueller to answer in a full and heartfelt, not a cagey and reluctant, way:
1) “Mr. Mueller, what should American citizens know and understand about what you discovered regarding the relationship between the Trump campaign and the Russian regime during that Russian attack on our 2016 election that sought to help Donald Trump become President?”
2) “Mr. Mueller, given what you know about the President’s conduct, if you were a Member of Congress, would you favor the impeachment of this President?”
3) “In what ways, if any, have people holding office in the U.S. government interfered with the successful conduct and completion of your investigation?”