Special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian election interference and related matters, which consumed media attention for more than two years, officially ended in March. Mueller found no proof of a Trump-Russia conspiracy, choosing to respect longstanding Justice Department policy according to which a sitting president cannot be indicted, and therefore not charging Trump with obstruction of justice.
Mueller, who made virtually no media appearances throughout the entirety of the investigation, testified before House Intelligence and Judiciary committees earlier this week. During the testimony, Mueller struggled to answer questions from lawmakers, struggled to remember details from his decades-long career, and appeared unfamiliar with his own investigation’s findings.
Rumors about Mueller’s “cognitive issues” have been circulating Capitol Hill for quite some time, according to a new report from The Washington Post.
According to congressional staffers and a number of Democratic lawmakers, rumors that Mueller “might not be as sharp as he once was” had circulated prior to the testimony, which the special counsel was effectively forced to say “yes” to after insisting that he testifies behind closed doors.
Members of Mueller’s team reportedly insisted that he was perfectly capable of testifying, and key Democrats wanted to move forward and deliver what they thought would be a deadly political blow to President Trump.
In the aftermath of the hearing, some House Democrats — including House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler — defended Mueller, arguing that his report speaks for itself.
Not everyone is happy with the testimony, however. In private conversations with the Washington Post, some House Democrats expressed regret.
“It was a painful reminder that age catches up to all of us,” one Democratic lawmaker said.
“Here you have this Vietnam hero and this post-September 11 FBI director. You could tell he was having a hard time hearing and it was like, ‘Ugh! This is not how I want him to be remembered.'”
Mueller’s testimony slip-ups might have left some Democrats disappointed, but Republicans have used them to advance their own agenda, and discredit Mueller and his investigation. GOP lawmakers have, much like Trump, long claimed that the investigation was launched under false pretenses, denouncing it as a partisan witch hunt.
Did Mueller's testimony kill the Trump impeachment debate? https://t.co/EF2AHmF3m1— Guardian US (@GuardianUS) July 26, 2019
In the aftermath of the hearing, Republican lawmakers took victory laps, suggesting that the testimony confirms their main theory: That the Mueller probe was not controlled by Robert Mueller himself, but by biased, Democratic-leaning prosecutors looking to remove Trump from office.
“Donald Trump is stronger today than any time in his presidency,” South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham told Fox News after the hearing.
“I’ve been asked for three months, ‘Why don’t you want to call Mueller?’ I bet you nobody will ask me that tomorrow,” he said, adding that the former FBI director was “not in charge” of the investigation.