Jul 25, 2019

Rudy dances after Mueller falters on the Hill

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

After a sterling career — including the Bronze Star for heroism as a Marine in Vietnam, and a decade as FBI director after 9/11 — Robert Mueller's last turn in the global spotlight will be remembered as a botch.

The big picture: There had been whispers in both parties about his faculties at age 74, and they became a roar yesterday as he stumbled through back-to-back appearances before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees.

Despite the takeaway that Mueller rejected Trump's claim of exoneration, Team Trump savored the former special counsel's halting, faltering performance.

  • Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, part of the president's legal team, texted:
Once again case falls apart. ...
If Mueller didn’t write report, as his disastrous testimony made clear, who did? ...
This is like a Grade B horror movie 🎥 🍿 with Nadler and Schiff the stars. Remember the hand keeps coming up and you have to bat it down 4 or 5 times. It’s getting easier and may become a satirical comedy. ...
Soon it will be The End and credits will appear.

Several people who have been in D.C. for decades, and have watched Mueller testify before Congress on many occasions, told Axios that the Mueller we saw yesterday was far less sharp and impressive than they remember.

Knowing how it might go, Mueller should have refused, despite Dems' insistence. Realistically, they weren't going to lock him up.

  • When Mueller read his farewell statement at the Justice Department on May 29, without taking questions — closing with a warning about "multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election," and saying that "deserves the attention of every American" — he should have let that be his final word.

The big picture: This was 100% political theater and 0% meaningful new substance.

  • Members dominated instead of the witness.
  • The hearings felt like electioneering.
  • Mueller didn't make any major new revelations, instead just nodding when members asked him if what he wrote in his report was correct. 

Go deeper: The 9 big moments from Robert Mueller's House testimony

Go deeper

Trump calls obstruction a "phony crime" during "Hannity" interview

President Trump called obstruction a "phony crime," alleging without evidence that it was created to target him during an interview on Fox News' "Hannity" on Thursday — the president's first since former special counsel Robert Mueller's House testimony.

"They create this phony crime and then they say he obstructed. They said there was no collusion, but he obstructed. ... The crime was committed on the other side, and we'll find out about it."

Reality check: Mueller told the House Judiciary Commitee that his report does not exonerate Trump on the issue of obstruction, instead citing his office's adherence to the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel opinion that prevents a sitting president from being indicted. Mueller also told the committee that Trump could be charged after he leaves office.

Keep ReadingArrowJul 26, 2019

Mueller got more social media buzz than "Game of Thrones"

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

Former special counsel Robert Mueller has maintained a constant level of social media momentum in 2019, even outpacing some of the year's most buzzworthy cultural events, according to data from the social media analytics company NewsWhip.

Why it matters: It reveals just how deeply political stories have become enmeshed with traditional cultural discourse — and how the two can often seem indistinguishable.

Go deeperArrowJul 29, 2019

Trump on Russian interference: "You don't really believe this, do you?"

Speaking to reporters before departing for his rally on Thursday, President Trump said he did not bring up the topic of Russian interference in his phone call with President Vladimir Putin, again casting aspersion on the warnings of the U.S. intelligence community.

Go deeperArrowAug 1, 2019