While Mueller’s team apparently said his acuity was not an issue, some lawmakers privately worry it was

By | July 27, 2019

The Washington Post reports:

As lawmakers drew closer to the August recess and realized it was now or never to subpoena Mueller, some committee members struggled with whether it was a good idea to bring him in. They talked among themselves about the rumors [that Robert Mueller might not be as sharp as he once was] and whether they could glean any insight from his news conference.

There were possible warning signs, some Democrats say privately. For a time, Mueller’s team pushed for the hearings to take place behind closed doors, and they advocated aggressively to limit each of the hearings to two hours. Members also were perplexed that panel staffers wanted them to shape questions so they could be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” That, though, was viewed as a time-preserving mechanism, and to accommodate Mueller’s wishes to not be seen as a political prop, one congressional official said.

At the last minute, Mueller also sought to have Aaron Zebley, his top deputy in the investigation, sworn in to testify alongside him. The House Judiciary Committee rejected that request, and while Zebley was sworn in and sat beside Mueller during the House Intelligence Committee hearing, the deputy said nothing.

Because Mueller’s team denied there was a problem, the committees pushed ahead.

True to his word, the former special counsel resisted saying anything that might be used as a political weapon, refusing to even read sections of his report aloud. But he also notably stumbled on several occasions, fueling criticism — and speculation — about his sharpness.

Mueller misstated how he was appointed as acting U.S. attorney in Massachusetts in the 1980s. He struggled to come up with the word “conspiracy,” even though the core of his investigation was to determine whether there was a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin to influence the 2016 election.

In the morning’s first hearing, before the Judiciary Committee, Mueller mangled one of his team’s most critical and controversial findings, suggesting that his team would have charged Trump with obstructing justice if not for Justice Department policy that prevents the indictment of a sitting president. In fact, Mueller’s team made no determination, even privately, of whether Trump could be charged, because of the Justice Department policy and because of concerns about fairness. [Continue reading…]

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