Robert Mueller Exits the Stage…For Now

Robert Mueller is no longer the Special Counsel to the Justice Department. That doesn’t mean it’s the last we’ve heard from him.

To be clear, Mueller himself would rather it be otherwise. In his statement this morning, he showed that he stood by his report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, possible cooperation between the Trump campaign and interfering Russians, and the obstruction of his investigation of both. He flatly said, “the report is my testimony,” while indicating, were he asked to testify, he would simply cite the report, in whole or in part, over and over again.

Having read the report, I can certainly understand Mueller’s assertion. Having seen the reaction to his statement, it’s pretty clear to me he won’t get his wish to avoid testifying.

Nothing in Mueller’s statement deviated from his report – no surprise, as Mueller cited it repeatedly – but outside of those few of us who have read it (and those whose distrust of Trump is such that they believe the worst of him), there is some surprise at what Mueller said today. When Mueller wrote in his report that Department of Justice policy against indicting a president closed off that door, while leaving Congress in the role of taking the information and moving under the constitutional instrument of the impeachment process, I read it and it had quite an impact. When he repeated that this morning, the rest of world took notice. My twitter feed is full of foreign journalists (mainly to follow their reporting on their home countries). The most knowledgeable about American politics (without directly covering it) is Dan Hodges of the UK. This was his response on Twitter:

Killer Mueller quote: “If we had confidence the President did not commit a crime we would have said so”.

For those of us who call ourselves political geeks, that quote hasn’t been “killer” since it survived William Barr’s creative interpretation of the Mueller report from two months ago. That it still packs a punch is a reminder of just how many people do not know what’s in the report.

So, if I were a Democrat in the House of Representatives, the conclusion is inevitable: Robert Mueller needs to talk about what’s in the report. As Eric Swalwell (who actually is such a Democrat) put it, “It’s the difference between seeing the movie and reading the book” (far more people would do the former than the latter).

In Mueller’s world (as a longtime political appointee of numerous Justice Departments) – and in mine (as a political geek) – the report would indeed speak for itself. In the – well, the real world – reports are always louder when their authors are talking about them. Whether Mueller wants to do that or not, Congressional Democrats will likely conclude – if they haven’t already – that he needs to do it.

They’re probably right.