DANIEL VAUGHAN: Democrats wanted Mueller to be Moses, but all they got was a bureaucrat

July 26, 2019

Of all the strangest critiques hurled at Robert Mueller during his Wednesday testimony, the most bizarre has to be that he had a “poor performance.” Focusing on his performance ignores all the important things, like the law, the facts, and the conclusions Mueller made in his report.

But then again, that’s the point of focusing on the performance — the left can avoid all the pesky things that don’t drive their narrative.

During Mueller’s testimony, Meet the Press anchor Chuck Todd remarked on Twitter: “On substance, Democrats got what they wanted: that Mueller didn’t charge [President] Trump because of the [DOJ Office of Legal Counsel] guidance, that he could be indicted after he leaves office, among other things. But on optics, this was a disaster.”

The pile-on from the left was immediate.

Todd was blasted by the left for focusing on the optics instead of narrative. But anyone who read the report already knew all the answers. There was nothing new or more to add, and the #Resistance kept digging deeper holes for the true-believing “collusion” crowd.

Todd’s point may be poorly phrased, but he’s right to focus on optics for both sides, because that was the only takeaway from Mueller’s testimony.

Mueller’s “poor performance” took all the steam out of the left’s sails. They wanted and expected for Mueller to come down on something akin to DOJ Mount Sinai, holding the two volumes of his reports like Charlton Heston playing Moses.

They wanted Mueller to hoist those tablets up and then and strike all the sinful Republicans below. Democrats and the media wanted a great smiting with thunder and lightning.

Instead, they got a boring bureaucrat, a top-level DOJ lawyer covering the highlights of the report his staff put together. He’s a special counsel under the direction of the Department of Justice — not Moses.

We’ve already had the debate over his conclusions; there’s nothing new to be gleaned from that inquiry. Are there questions still left unanswered? Sure! But Democrats didn’t want those answers. They wanted Mueller to go beyond a bureaucratic role and strike Trump down.

Mueller declined. If Democrats want impeachment, they’ll have to read Mueller’s report and vote based on it. And, again, we already know what Democrats think about the impeachment question. A week before Mueller stepped before Congress, Nancy Pelosi, “the Squad,” and the rest of the House Democrats held a vote over whether or not to pursue impeachment.

Rep. Al Green of Texas introduced the resolution to impeach Trump because, Green says, the president is “unfit for office.” That vote lost 332–95, with 137 Democrats joining Republicans against the resolution.

When pressed on the issue of impeachment, Democrats retreat. As NBC News reports, “Some Democratic leaders have resisted [impeachment], fearing that it would distract from the party’s policy agenda, could rally Trump’s base, isn’t popular with the public and is doomed to fail in the Republican-controlled Senate.”

If you know Democrats already voted against impeachment before Mueller testified, then that should tell you the goal of Mueller’s testimony: performance. As National Review writer and lawyer David French noted, Democrats were relying heavily on some new facts or performance, and they got neither:

There are no explosive new facts, and Mueller did not give a compelling prosecutorial performance. Quite the contrary. The most charitable assessment of Mueller’s performance is that it was the work of a man who objected to the proceedings and wanted his written work to stand for itself. There was no Perry Mason moment. There were no prosecutorial flourishes. There were no flourishes at all.

French summed it up by saying, “And just like that, Democratic dreams of impeachment died. Again.”

And if you knew Department of Justice guidelines, most of this was predictable a long time ago. I wrote in January 2018 that Mueller wouldn’t indict Trump, or any sitting president for that matter. The OLC guidance exists because it’s more than just guidance — it’s good law.

And so here we sit, again, in the same spot we’ve been in for months. Mueller’s investigation turned up a lot of bad actors and dealt with them accordingly. He followed the evidence in his investigation and could not find an actionable crime regarding the Trump campaign on the “collusion” front. Mueller’s team couldn’t confirm anything alleged in the infamous Christopher Steele dossier.

We have the bad apples locked up, the report written, and a “lackluster performance” from a special counsel who didn’t want to be there on Wednesday. If you’re looking for special optics or a performance, you’re highly disappointed. If you’re looking for facts and law, you didn’t even need Mueller’s testimony, because everything you need is in hundreds of pages of his report.

There’s an old trial lawyer adage that says, “If the facts are on your side, pound the facts into the table. If the law is on your side, pound the law into the table. If neither the facts nor the law is on your side, pound the table.”

The Mueller hearings were more about a bunch of representatives pounding the table because they either didn’t have — or didn’t know — the law or the facts.

It’s put up and shut up time for Democrats. If they believe they have something, they should start impeachment proceedings. If everything is as dire as they say, then go ahead and get started.

But we’ve already seen they don’t want to do that — they wanted a performance from Mueller to take out Trump. They didn’t get that.

I guess its back to pounding the tables of CNN, MSNBC, and The New York Times for the #Resistance crowd. They have to keep those campaign donations coming in somehow.

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Daniel Vaughan

Daniel Vaughan is a columnist for the Conservative Institute and lawyer in Nashville, Tennessee. He has degrees from Middle Tennessee State University and Regent University School of Law. His work can be found on the Conservative Institute's website, or you can receive his columns and free weekly newsletter at The Beltway Outsiders. Connect with him on Twitter at @dvaughanCI.