It was a long day but Robert Mueller is done. He wrapped up his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee at 3:30pm ET, having kicked the day off at 8:30am before the House Judiciary Committee. So how'd he do? President Trump seemed pleased with the day's events, tweeting, "TRUTH IS A FORCE OF NATURE!" Here's how Mueller's appearances are being received by others:
- Fox News' Chris Wallace was more than unimpressed. In comments made during a break in the testimony (and quoted by President Trump), he had this to say, per the Daily Beast. "This has been a disaster for the Democrats and I think it's been a disaster for the reputation of Robert Mueller. ... He has been attacked a number of times and you would think that almost anybody else would have defended his own integrity and the integrity of the investigation and over and over Mueller just sits silent and allows the attacks from the Republicans to sweep over him and says nothing."
- At Vice, Jason Koebler is one of many calling out Mueller's frequent halts, though he blames technology. The hearing "quickly devolved into the world's most boring pop quiz," he writes. "We should not have to watch as he asks lawmakers for a page number, flip back and forth through his papers, and finds what they’re referring to." And for that Koebler faults the "Justice Department's PDF and Congress's outdated rules about using technology during hearings."
- Aaron Blake offers a number of takeaways at the Washington Post. He leads with this one: That Republicans were trying to "undermine" the report by "tripping up" Mueller—and were effective in doing so. Blake points out a number of instances where this was the case. Among them: when Rep. Collins asked whether "collusion" and "conspiracy" are "colloquially" the same. Mueller said no; Collins then read the report's line about them being "largely synonymous." Blake argues that's a shade different from "colloquially the same," but writes that "Mueller didn't seem to have much of an answer."
- At CNN, Chris Cillizza saw two different hearings underway. The Democrats' "blueprint" emphasized Mueller's service and that Trump obviously obstructed the investigation; Republicans yelled and railed that Mueller "unfairly persecuted" Trump. "The whiplash is stark," Cillizza writes. "And means—stop me if you've heard this before—that people will likely hear what they want to hear coming out of this hearing."
- At Slate, Ben Mathis-Lilley writes the Republicans worked to drive home the idea that there was no point to Mueller's probe because, as Mueller repeatedly stated, he could not ultimately indict Trump due to DOJ guidelines—impeachment falls in Congress' hands. But "at Wednesday’s hearing, no Democrat has even said the word impeachment; instead, they’ve asked largely redundant questions about the same set of apparent incidents of obstruction of justice outlined in the report. The strategy seems to be to get Mueller to discuss the criminal-ish things Trump did on television in such a way that public opinion shifts toward impeachment without Democrats having to push for it."
- Greg Sargent of the Washington Post tries to redirect the focus. "Some of the best minds in journalism are only looking at optics of Mueller's struggles, but not at optics of Repubs raging at Mueller for refusing to clear Trump," he tweeted. "Others are pretending not to understand news value of having things stated on live TV."
- David Axelrod deemed it "very, very painful" then clarified, tweeting, "Not a commentary on the content. The report is damning. That was reenforced today. He has been an exemplary public servant, as people [on] both sides attested, but he clearly was struggling today and that was painful."
- Laura Ingraham tweeted her opinion as well. "Here’s some advice. Don’t build a big hearing around a lawyer who told you he didn’t want to be there. #MuellerHearing"
- Writing for Slate, Dahlia Lithwick pores over Mueller's morning exchange with Rep. Lieu—and Mueller's afternoon clarification. Mueller's answer to Lieu's questioning was interpreted by many to be an admission that if not for DOJ guidelines, Mueller would have indicted Trump. He subsequently corrected himself, saying no determination as to whether Trump committed a crime was made. "The one bit of news that seemed to have been news has been clarified back into the same exact legal language as was carefully crafted in the report," she writes. "It was a misstep that was misunderstood and then retracted, a perfect capsule performance of how dragging an unwilling witness into a polemical hearing was never going to go well."
- Yes, the hearings were dull, writes Amanda Marcotte for Salon, and it's "hard to avoid the conclusion" that it would be more useful for Democrats to question Mueller's witnesses rather than questioning him about questioning them. "These are the witnesses, of course, who have not yet testified before Congress because Trump has successfully blocked all congressional subpoenas, which don't have the force of an impeachment inquiry behind them. That isn't to say that Democrats didn't get some interesting comments from Mueller. But what did emerge ended up offering even more evidence that impeachment is the only remedy at hand to hold Trump accountable for his likely crimes."
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