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

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