Well, it started good, anyway. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, kicked off the long-awaited Congressional testimony of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller by asking him: “The president has repeatedly claimed your report found there was no obstruction and completely and totally exonerated him. That is not what your report said, is it?” Mueller replied: “Correct, not what the report said.” Nadler continued: “You wrote, ‘If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are not able to reach that judgment.’ Does that say there was no obstruction?” Mueller responded: “No.” Nadler went on: “Your investigation found ‘multiple acts by the president that were capable of asserting undue influence over law enforcement investigations, including the Russian interference and obstruction investigations.’ Is that correct?” And Mueller concurred. “Correct.”
But sadly, it was downhill from there. It went on for seven hours, covering everything from Don McGahn refusing to fire Mueller per Trump’s instructions, to the infamous Trump Tower meeting with the Russians, to the drama around WikiLeaks, to the basis of FICA warrants, to a roster of shifty personalities, including Michael Cohen, Roger Stone, Mike Flynn, Paul Manafort, Donald Trump Jr., Christopher Steele, Constantine Kalimnick, Joseph Mifsud, George Papadopoulos, and Hope Hicks.
In the end, the testimony did not light up the sky with revelations, new insights, and excitement. Mueller’s halting, monosyllabic style could hardly be described as telegenic and, in this case, the book was better than the movie. For people who were counting on the release of the Mueller Report last March to spur impeachment proceedings and were disappointed, the show today, alas, will not set the world—or Congress—on fire.
In the morning session, Mueller refused to answer over 100 questions, allowing the Republicans to spin a web of fantastical allegations—what they termed “the origins of this charade”—without rebuttal. Mueller flared only once, when he was baited with the notion that his legal team was composed of partisan individuals who the president has referred to ad nauseam as “18 angry Democrats.” “We strove to hire those individuals that could do the job,” Mueller responded. “I have been in this business for almost 25 years. And in those 25 years, I have not had occasion, once, to ask somebody about their political affiliation. It is not done.”
If it seemed that there was one bright light in the first session, it was extinguished by the start of session two. In the earlier meeting, Mueller had seemed to say that he would have charged Trump if he were not the sitting president. But in his opening remarks for the second session, Mueller walked it back: “That is not the correct way to say it. We did not reach a determination as to whether the president committed a crime.”
The star of the second session was, in fact, not Mueller, but Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who laid out the case in devastating detail. “ …Your report also tells a story about lies,” Schiff declared. “Lots of lies. Lies to obstruct an investigation into the most serious attack on our democracy by a foreign power in our history. That is where your report ends, Mr. Mueller, with a scheme to cover up, obstruct, and deceive every bit as systematic and pervasive as the Russian disinformation campaign itself, but far more pernicious since this rot came from within.”
Turning to Mueller, Schiff said: “…Your investigation is not a witch hunt, is it?” asked Schiff. “It is not a witch hunt,” Mueller replied.
Originally Appeared on Vogue