Robert Mueller is clearly not comfortable being cast as an extra in somebody else’s drama. But that is where he finds himself today.
In the first hour of the hearing, Democratic lawmakers attempted to get Mueller to emphasize and expand on sections of his report that show President Trump expressing concern, rage or frustration about the investigation of his campaign. Republicans, predictably, accused Mueller and his team of going beyond his legal mandate and improperly drawing conclusions about the motives and actions of Trump campaign members.
Both sides, in part because each representative is limited to 5 minutes apiece, have been rushing to score points, flinging rapid-fire questions at Mueller that he clearly is hesitant (and, perhaps, unable) to answer at top speed. The overall effect is that Mueller appears confused by the flow of questions.
Today’s proceedings are a world away from the 1974 Watergate hearings, which unfolded at a slower pace and revealed a great deal of basic information about the range and extent of misconduct the public was learning about for the first time. Today, by contrast, the conversation is about a dense report that is familiar to all of the lawmakers, but known in only vague terms by the public.
It’s ironic that the man who drove and directed the investigation has been reduced to a taciturn, slightly baffled secondary character at a hearing about his own work.
Errol Louis is the host of “Inside City Hall,” a nightly political show on NY1, a New York all-news channel.