The Media Brushes Over Mueller Contradictions After “Blockbuster” Turns Into Bomb

Below is my column in the Hill Newspaper on the aftermath of the Mueller hearings. This week, the Democrats belatedly moved to get a court order to release Grand Jury material withheld in the Mueller Report. That material represents a tiny percentage of text and the request is months too late. I testified many weeks ago that, if the Democrats were really serious about impeachment, they would have filed soon after the report was issued. Every indication remains that the Democratic leadership is still running out the clock on impeachment while trying to convince voters that they really do want to impeach Donald Trump.

Democrats are now insisting that it was not Mueller but really McGahn that they expected to put away Trump. It would be a sequel to a colossal flop and they are not exactly moving with dispatch . . . as time ticks by.

Here is the column:

I once heard a story about Pia Zadora’s performance as the lead in “The Diary of Anne Frank.” The audience was eager for Zadora’s dreadful acting to conclude. In a closing scene, Nazis broke into the house, shouting “Where is Anne Frank?” The audience shouted back, “She’s in the attic!” just to try to end the play. The story is likely apocryphal but it illustrates that not all live performances are really better than the original books.

I had the same impulse watching more than six hours of former special counsel Robert Mueller offering monosyllabic responses as Democrats read his report to him. Democrats said this would be the “blockbuster movie” for those who “did not read the book” of the report. If so, it was the congressional version of the John Travolta movie bomb “Battlefield Earth” and, for Mueller, the prosecutorial version of “Dazed and Confused.”

The hearing was a disaster for anyone who was hoping for a kickstart to impeachment. Democrats could not produce even a single takeaway moment in six hours of hearings. Instead, Mueller came across more often as befuddled than bemused by the entire exercise. Calling the hearings a “disaster” for Democrats, Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe, a leading advocate for impeachment, declared, “Far from breathing life into his damning report, the tired Robert Mueller sucked the life out of it.”

But of course, it did not matter. No minds were changed. Furthermore, Democrats did not seem to care that Mueller was in open contempt of Congress by simply refusing to answer questions whenever it suited him. Indeed, that proved to be most questions. The media coverage predictably ignored the fact that Mueller continually contradicted himself on what he would and would not answer. Instead, his curt refusals to answer legitimate questions were immediately described as evidence of his “reticence” and “discipline.” In fact, Mueller never even bothered to cite a legal basis to back up most of his refusals to answer questions.

He was allowed to discuss the underlying law as well as key decisions on the preparation of the report. All of these areas had been discussed by Attorney General William Barr and were neither privileged nor classified. So why did he not answer these questions? The answer is as simple as it is obvious. He did not want to because he often had no answer. Moreover, he knew the Democrats were not going to insist on detailed answers.

For example, Mueller refused to discuss whether Barr and former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told him to submit his report with grand jury material identified, to allow for a rapid public release of the report. Indeed, that subject has already been discussed, and Mueller was clearly able to discuss it. However, he refused and no one bothered to point out that the attorney general had already established that this information could be discussed publicly. The fact is that it was Mueller who delayed the release of the report by ignoring the instructions of his superiors.

Likewise, Mueller clearly could have discussed, as did Barr, his legal interpretation of two memos from the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel that he claimed prevented him from reaching a conclusion on criminal obstruction. This is a purely legal question. Mueller answered questions about the Office of Legal Counsel when it suited him and then refused when it did not. He started the second hearing before the House Intelligence Committee by withdrawing part of his earlier testimony before the House Judiciary Committee regarding the two memos.

Mueller is simply wrong in his interpretation of the memos insisting that you cannot indict a sitting president means that you cannot reach any conclusions in a report on his criminal conduct. His two superiors made clear that his interpretation was wrong when they reached a conclusion on obstruction. Nothing in the memos restricted Mueller from reaching conclusions on criminal conduct, as his superiors made clear to him. Yet, Mueller avoided all of that by repeating his “I will not answer that” mantra.

Democrats were left repeating the same mantra that “no one is above the law” and demanding to know why no one has taken action. It was a bizarre objection from a committee that has the authority to impeach President Trump. It was like a cop screaming, “Someone needs to arrest that guy!” Mueller continued with flagrantly conflicted answers. He refused to answer questions about his prosecution but went into detail about his decisions on other issues like not subpoenaing Trump. He did the same in refusing to discuss allegations in his own federal court filings but had no trouble holding forth on how WikiLeaks is a foreign intelligence operation or how answers from Trump were incomplete.

On the latter question, Mueller even discussed other ways of describing the lack of cooperation from Trump after refusing to explain ambiguous lines in other parts of his report. Then he returned to his mantra and said things like “I do not want to wade into those waters.” Committee members shrugged it off, as if that is a new form of aquatic government privilege.

In the end, Mueller testified in the same imperious fashion as his press conference two months ago when he declared, “I hope and expect this to be the only time that I will speak to you in this manner.” His declining to answer questions left the House committees in a glaring contradiction. When Barr testified substantively for hours without limitations, Democrats attacked him as uncooperative. But when Mueller demanded time limits and continually refused to answer nonprivileged questions that he clearly could answer, Democrats virtually cooed that he was only being reticent.

Yet, Mueller did not seem up to the task of answering questions even when asked the name of the president who appointed him as a United States attorney. When he did answer a question clearly, he stumbled. In the first hearing, he agreed with Representative Ted Lieu of California that “the reason that you did not indict the president” is because of the Office of Legal Counsel opinion “that you cannot indict a sitting president” and then had to start out the second hearing by taking back that answer.

Given his resistance to testifying and his request to have his chief of staff with him, the hearings successfully magnified the lingering questions over his supervision of the investigation. It all was a testament to how a bad movie can ruin a good book. Film critic Joel Siegel once reviewed “The Bonfire of the Vanities” by saying, “This is a failure of epic proportions. You have got to be a genius to make a movie this bad.” If the Democrats wanted to dampen calls for impeachment, they could not have produced a better cinematic suppressant. Call it “The Day Impeachment Died.”

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.

135 thoughts on “The Media Brushes Over Mueller Contradictions After “Blockbuster” Turns Into Bomb”

  1. What did we learn from all this.

    a. Mueller was a set up to protect the left
    b. The left can now call itself the stupid flip flop party
    c. The left has no moral reason to be considered USA Citizens.

    Nothing else had changed.

    We will see if Barr can do better. He’s got an open field, a clear shot, tons of evidence so now it’s Barr vs ACLueless which is another way of saying

    Barr in support of Our Representative Constitutional Republic of independent self governing Citizens

    vs

    Socialist Salivating Slavery.

    So to make it a tad bit interesting whose picking dates before the quintessential fly on the wall that head all knows all Huma Gotcha Huma Gotcha will get the feeling she either hooks up with Barr in echange for a States Evidence deal or goes to Diesel Land.

    1. The left hated Hillary Clinton.

      It’s the left that has been the most critical and done the best reporting on this whole witch-hunt.

      Glenn Greenwald
      Matt Taibbi
      Arron Mate
      Robert Perry
      Ray McGovern
      Jimmy Dore
      Etc
      Etc

      The left knows very well that this McCarthyism was always used against them

      Ask Julian Assange

      1. The Obama Coup D’etat in America is the most egregious abuse of power and the most prodigious scandal in American political

        history.

        The co-conspirators are:

        Rosenstein, Mueller/Team, Andrew Weissmann, Comey, Christopher Wray, McCabe, Strozk, Page,

        Laycock, Kadzic, Yates, Baker, Bruce Ohr, Nellie Ohr, Priestap, Kortan, Campbell, Sir Richard Dearlove,

        Steele, Simpson, Joseph Mifsud, Alexander Downer, Stefan “The Walrus” Halper, Azra Turk, Kerry,

        Hillary, Huma, Mills, Brennan, Gina Haspel, Clapper, Lerner, Farkas, Power, Lynch, Rice, Jarrett, Holder,

        Brazile, Sessions (patsy), Obama et al.

  2. I have to agree the Mueller was not the hero the Democrats wanted or deserved.

    1. I have to agree the Mueller was not the hero the Democrats wanted or deserved.

      To read reports about his Marine Corps persona is an example of pure fantasy. Mueller served 3 years in the USMC, a platoon commander, discharged as an O-3, a Captain. He is now in his 70s. Three years are just that 3 years, a blur to anyone after a long life.

      Contrast Mueller with truly awe inspiring career military men under Trump like General H. R. McMaster, USA; General John F. Kelly USMC; Gen. James N. Mattis, USMC, all of whom were skewered by the Left

      Humility often accompanies a distinguished military career. Mueller has no such character trait.

      Mueller is a concoction of the Media Industrial Complex

      1. No point in trashing his military service or pretending it’s unimportant. The trouble has been that it’s used to justify everything else he’s done with his life. Mueller is a Justice Department lifer with a critical mass of dubious incidents in his past. His conduct over the last three years makes plain his object is to prevent elected officials from disciplining Justice Department employees who have behaved atrociously. Nothing honorable or decent about that. (Now we learn he’s either senile or he missed his vocation as an actor).

      2. Estovir, many people serve their nation in the marines and elsewhere and we should give them thanks for their service whether on the left or on the right. Mueller served those three years and I thank him but it is not just how one lives three years of their life that counts rather the sum total. I won’t comment on the rest of his life here but I note how the left props up his military life of 3 years and then consider how they will ruin a general, General Flynn, who gave his life service to the military and reached the rank of General. The left’s morality has descended to the bottom of he-l.

      1. olesmithy – I was feeling sorry for the Democrats. Sorry like you would feel for a wounded animal you wanted to put out of its misery.

  3. I kept on waiting for some congressman to ask, “What is the constitutional basis for your refusal to answer? The fifth amendment?”

  4. There is very good evidence that Democrats, (at the highest level), the FBI and NSA knew this was a bogus story from the very beginning. I will link to that extensive info below.

    Political parties have become cults. When a cult leader promises something (the world will end) and it never occurs, belief in the cult is increased. Democrats will not be able to give up their belief in Russiagate unless they question their allegiance to the underlying cult.

    Further we have recently seen extremely intense efforts to repropagandized Democrats concerning Russiagate. That is because information about Seth Rich having leaked the e-mails is coming out in a lawsuit.

    There is a lot of evidence contained in this lawsuit. It is scaring the bejeezus out of Russiagate’s progenitors. What follows is information and documentation which points to the actual origin of Russiagate. Further, one can go to Consortium News for a discussion about Seth Rich.

    https://www.scribd.com/document/417578836/Butowsky-Complaint

    1. Jill, you’re ridiculous! Here you are poo-pooing Russian interference which even most Republicans have acknowledged at some point. What’s more, Russia has interfered in elections all over Western Europe.

      But then, after dismissing Russian interference, you bring up the case of Seth Rich as though that ‘conspiracy’ is real. You don’t know that Fox News has already distanced itself from that myth? ..You think people can walk around Washington at 5 am with no expectation of foul play..??

      1. Seymore Hersh sources say Seth Rich was the leaker….

        Russian interference in the election is the only conspiracy theory

        Mueller only has a 2 legged stool for his conspiracy theory about Russia , the Troll farms and the E mails…..

        Mueller tried every which way to hide the fact there was ZERO evidence of the troll farm connections to the Russian governnment

        Aaron Maté‏Verified account @aaronjmate

        Federal judge has issued a significant rebuke of a core Mueller claim. Mueller claims that the IRA — a Russian troll farm — was the 2nd of “two principal interference operations” by Russian gov’t. But as judge notes, Mueller’s implied link between IRA & Russian gov’t was false:

        https://twitter.com/aaronjmate/status/1148581532598198273?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1148581532598198273&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fdisqus.com%2Fby%2Fdisqus_3fYW6KcjkS%2F

        Aaron Maté
        ‏Verified account @aaronjmate

        This is a major blow not just to Mueller but to the entire “Russian Active Measures” talking point. As the judge acknowledges, the IRA (which, btw, put out juvenile clickbait mostly unrelated to the election) is a private entity & Mueller never establishes a Kremlin connection.

        https://twitter.com/aaronjmate/status/1148581987013320704

        Aaron Maté
        ‏Verified account @aaronjmate

        I point out this disconnect in my latest piece: Mueller says the social media operation was the 2nd major component of a “sweeping and systematic” Russian gov’t interference campaign — yet he never actually shows how it’s connected to the Russian gov’t.

        twitter.com/aaronjmate/status/1148583285389438976

        Aaron Maté
        ‏Verified account @aaronjmate

        This inconsistency, confirmed by a DC judge, raises new Qs about the validity of Mueller’s claim of a “sweeping and systematic” Russian gov’t interference campaign. If Mueller was disingenuous in falsely trying to link it to Russian gov’t, what else was he disingenuous about?

        Aaron Maté
        ‏Verified account @aaronjmate

        For more on why the IRA was a juvenile operation mostly unrelated to 2016 election, see also: (thenation.com/article/russiagate-elections-interference/ …) & (thenation.com/article/hyping-the-mueller-indictment/ …)

        thenation.com/article/hyping-the-mueller-indictment/

        1. emma peele,

          You might not be aware but this weblog only permits two hyperlinks per comment. I dereferenced the extra hyperlinks to allow your comment to post. If you would like the readership to review more than two links, this may be accomplished through the use of additional comments.

  5. The Weissmann report. There was a good article at The Hill some time ago.

    The Headline: Judging by Mueller’s staffing choices, he may not be very interested in justice

    Of course the author did not know at that time that Mueller played no substantive role in anything to do with this matter, and as I’ve said before, it would be interesting to know how this special council staff was actually assembled.

    Text overlays the first paragraph. But the concluding sentence of the first paragraph encapsulates the paragraph anyway. “The Mueller investigation has become an all-out assault to find crimes to pin on them — and it won’t matter if there are no crimes to be found. This team can make some.”

    Here is the article:

    https://thehill.com/opinion/white-house/356253-judging-by-muellers-staffing-choices-he-may-not-be-very-interested-in

  6. This is a very good objective analysis of the proceedings.

    His declining to answer questions left the House committees in a glaring contradiction. When Barr testified substantively for hours without limitations, Democrats attacked him as uncooperative. But when Mueller demanded time limits and continually refused to answer nonprivileged questions that he clearly could answer, Democrats virtually cooed that he was only being reticent.

    That’s exactly right. Of course the committee majority has their base fooled that they are seeking the truth. Clearly they have no interest in the truth. If the truth was his administration has failed to follow through on his campaign promises, they would be beating that drum. If there was essentially no change in the economy, employment, trade, foreign affairs, war on ISIS, etc. they would be all over that. They cannot go there. All you need to know where President Trump has left them to go, just look at what the Democrat candidates are running on; failed policies of socialist states and impeachment. When Durham and Horowitz release their reports, the Democrats will be running on failed socialist policies and defending the totalitarian lawfare tactics of those their reports indict.

    Grab some popcorn.

    1. Meuller didnt know what Fusion GPS was?

      Or who FGPS Glenn Simpson was ?……who met with the Russian lawyer before and after the Trump Tower meeting?

      The FBI had worked with Fusion GPS for years and paid for the Steele dossier….that was actually sourced from top Russian government officials?

      Mueller is lying because he know they were sloppy in this soft coup against Trump because they never though he would win.

  7. I watched FOX 5, ABC, NBC, CBS Sunday news analysis

    Then I got an excruciating back pain. Help, help, help. Called Life Alert & and you should to.

  8. If Donald Trump wins a second term, the DNC is going to look like Jonestown Guyana.

  9. O’k, all together now, “Nothing Burger”! Now didn’t that feel good.

  10. THE WEISSMAN REPORT

    The Weissman Report is a hoax and Robert Mueller is a demented has-been who was manipulated solely for the purpose of ostensible influence. Andrew Weissman has a history of “prosecutorial misconduct” not dissimilar to that of Mike Nifong of Duke Lacrosse infamy. DA Nifong was convicted of “malicious prosecution” and went to jail. Andrew Weissman was overturned in about 15 minutes by a damning unanimous Supreme Court decision.

    To wit,

    “The Supreme Court, in a 9-0 vote in 2005, overturned the Andersen conviction. A year later, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals erased all the fraud convictions against four Merrill Lynch managers. The jury had acquitted another defendant.”

    “People went off to prison for a completely phantom of a case,” said Mr. Kirkendall.

    – Washington Times
    ________________

    Weissman is the most recent addition to the co-conspirator list of the Obama Coup D’etat in America. Every day the facts inch closer to a American/European Intel operation with Obama at the top.

    “If Comey had indicted Hillary, Comey would have convicted Obama.”

    – Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review
    _______________________________

    The Obama Coup D’etat in America is the most egregious abuse of power and the most prodigious scandal in American political history.

    The co-conspirators are:

    Rosenstein, Mueller/Team, Andrew Weissmann, Comey, Christopher Wray, McCabe, Strozk, Page,

    Laycock, Kadzic, Yates, Baker, Bruce Ohr, Nellie Ohr, Priestap, Kortan, Campbell, Sir Richard Dearlove,

    Steele, Simpson, Joseph Mifsud, Alexander Downer, Stefan “The Walrus” Halper, Azra Turk, Kerry,

    Hillary, Huma, Mills, Brennan, Gina Haspel, Clapper, Lerner, Farkas, Power, Lynch, Rice, Jarrett, Holder,

    Brazile, Sessions (patsy), Obama et al.

    1. “People went off to prison for a completely phantom of a case”

      Weissmann involved in a phantom case? I’m shocked, SHOCKED I tell you!

  11. It’s a reasonable inference that the impeachment drive has little or nothing to do with anything Trump did do or did not do of a criminal or tortious nature. Trump’s real offense is that he raises issues that liberals want off the table, and he survives and even prospers despite concerted efforts of the media to manufacture sh!tstorms and destroy him. Over nearly five decades, control of the terms of public discourse has been crucial for the left getting its way. This just enrages them.

  12. See Judge Judy: “You’re either playing dumb or it’s not an act”.

    Hope Mrs. Mueller and their children have the PoA signed. A man his age has a life expectancy of about 12 years. An Alzheimer’s diagnosis will take < 1 year off that. Depending on local rates, private pay assisted living will set you back about $75,000 a year, though if he's in a memory care unit the charges may be more severe. His time in private practice should have left him with a bloc of assets for that. He had a looong run as a federal employee, and that may include LTC insurance as a retirement benefit. OTOH, he might be due a berth in a Veteran's hospital if necessary.

    1. I think Mueller is old enough that he gets the old benefits and from what I have seen they are among the best.

    2. Tabby, you’re touching on something here. People over 70 are prone to heath emergencies and susceptible to Alzheimer’s; including Donald Trump.

      For all we know Trump’s irrational outbursts are age-related in some way. Trump’s politics have changed dramatically in the past 15 years. That could be a clue right there. It’s odd that a man known so long as politically moderate becomes this White Nationalist Russian sympathizer in his 70’s.

      1. Alzheimer’s; including Donald Trump.

        So you’ve been hoping, ever since he took office. Without evidence.

      2. Neurologic problems can occur at any age as can irrational actions. As an example I point you to Nadler who if rational on the subject never would have wanted Mueller to testity. I could point out a bunch of other Democrats who have shown over and over again their mental instabilities that would lead one to believe they shouldn’t be the leaders of a superpower.

        If you wish to accuse Trump of irrational outbursts you would have to list them and say what made them irrational. We all know from what you and others have said Trumps accusations agains the squad could represent a failing mind, but then we have to look at the results. Trump got what he needed and those on the left were hammered. Pelosi had to take the side of the squad. Trump has outmaneuverd the Democrats and never Trumpers over and over again. That is not a sign of a decline in mental capacity.

        You on the other hand demonstrate a lack of comprehension and a mind that not only forgets but doesn’t remember the points previously made. Maybe it is your mental state, poor comprehension, low intellectual status or just lazyness. One can’t tell over the Internet but it seems likely that it is a good deal of all those things put together.

        1. Alan, I’m OUTSIDE the rightwing media bubble. You’re talking to yourself right here.

  13. The Constitution is a document that the founders recognized could be totally destroyed because of human nature. We are seeing the founder’s worst fears of what could happen. The Democrats have decided that the nation is less important than their ability to be in power.

    1. That process began in earnest when “Crazy Abe” Lincoln commenced his “Reign of Terror.”

      1. George, we disagree. Many of the leaders in the south were expansionist and I can envision a war at later time. You have a vision of what is perfect rather than good. Perfect is the enemy of good.

        1. I have a vision of the “manifest tenor” of the literal words of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. “Crazy Abe” shredded that fundamental law and proceed to rule in absolutely heinous and brutal fashion through executive orders. proclamations, the summary jailing of opponents, press smashing, election fixing, the decimation civilians by “Crazy Abe” through Sherman’s “total war,” etc., etc., etc. “Crazy Abe” was the “pit bull” of the “deep deep state” which was determined to complete “westward expansion” as a nation in tact. It treasonously denied the constitutional right of secession, Habeas Corpus, etc. And when “Crazy Abe’s” usefulness was spent, he was “martyred” by a Northern, Union hit team. Grant refused to attend Ford’s Theater with “Crazy Abe” after his attendance was highly publicized; others also turned down the great opportunity to celebrate with the President.

          Do you consume truth and facts?

          Try “Crimes and Cover-ups in American Politics: 1776-1963” by Donald Jeffries.

          1. “I have a vision of the “manifest tenor” of the literal words of the Constitution and Bill of Rights”

            George, people who talk like you frequently have many visions.

              1. George, I didn’t want to go further with the statement out of respect for you so I just made mention of a logical error.

                1. Please accept my apologies.

                  I did not intend to spar with an unarmed opponent.

                  1. “I did not intend to spar with an unarmed opponent.”

                    George, when dealing with you I require no weapons.😀

  14. Gee, JT, thanks so much for your amateur opinion on political horse racing and strategy, but this kind of commentary is a dime a dozen, and clearly most of it worth more than yours at that low rate.

    1. He said hardly a word about that. The bulk of the text was taken up with delineating the incoherence of the various legal stances Mueller took during the course of the hearings.

  15. Dr Turley … you, of all people, as a constitutional lawyer should have declared this Democrat harassment as the illegitimate farce it is. Dems want to impeach because Mueller said he couldn’t exonerate President Trump from obstruction…. that is the most farcical and unconstitutional comment ever made. ALL Americans are assumed innocent. Not only was President Trump innocent of absurd claims of collusion/treason, INNOCENCE of obstruction MUST be declared UNLESS you can PROVE otherwise.

    You must start condemning the ignorance of the Democrat attorneys who participated in this Mueller absurdity and now the Dem congressmen who perpetuate unconstitutional claims. Please start doing so in more exacting and specific terms. Equivocation on these issues reflects badly on intellect.

    1. Mueller’s legal team is not ignorant of the law and knew exactly what they were doing.

  16. Much ado about nada. Nada , nada, bo bada. fee fi mo madda. Trump, frump, bo bump.

  17. The irrationality of this has to do primarily with the fact that Hillary Clinton lost to a buffoon, and many, including a chunk of establishment Republicans, don’t want to blame her ineptitude for that, so they blame the Russians and occasionally Bernie Sanders.

    Once that irrational motivation is understood, this farce starts to make some sense.

  18. And yet the Pinkos will claim to be vindicated.

    We are all partisan, but the Dems sound more and more like Bagdad Bob touting Iraqi victories.

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