Special Counsel Robert Mueller is testifying before two House committees on Wednesday, and some blue check Twitter users are saying that he looks off balance. But that’s not all — some of those who personally know Mueller are reportedly “concerned.”
“People who have long admired and known Robert Mueller, are concerned about his visible struggle this morning to answer detailed, rapid-fire questions,” wrote Washington Post reporter Carol Leonnig.
Mueller appeared before the House Judiciary Committee in the morning, and is scheduled to speak with the Intelligence Committee at noon. Surprise: The hearing is controversial. Some pundits pointing out that Mueller is effectively reiterating the damaging conclusions of his report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. Mueller acknowledged as true that President Donald Trump wanted him fired for investigating obstruction of justice, and that POTUS can be prosecuted after leaving office.
Despite this, observers were not convinced that Mueller was “at the top of his game.”
Here’s was one take from attorney and perennial Trump opponent Michael Avenatti:
Unfortunately for our democracy, Robert Mueller is not at the top of his game today. He just isn’t. Something is off.
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) July 24, 2019
Some suggested that Mueller seemed “confused at times,” particularly about aspects of his report.
Mueller is answering few questions– citing the report, asking questions to be repeated, seems confused at times and uncertain about key parts of his own report.
— Michael Isikoff (@Isikoff) July 24, 2019
It has come to be an optics issue, at the very least.
I’m not sure anyone could have done more to discredit Mueller’s report and investigation than Mueller is doing right now. He can’t answer simplec questions about his own investigation, fumbles answers about his own report, and seems utterly befuddled by what’s happening.
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) July 24, 2019
Media portrayal of Mueller: sterling, heroic, supremely competent pursuer of truth
Actual performance of Mueller: bumbling, shaky, can’t recall key facts
Now we know why he hid from the public for 2+ years
— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) July 24, 2019
Testimony is happening at a rapid-fire pace because of the format. Each member of the 41-member judiciary committee was set to get five minutes to ask their questions. New Republic staff writer Matt Ford suggested that this clashed with Mueller’s style of testimony.
“Mueller is answering these questions as a very cautious 74-year-old lawyer who doesn’t do TV interviews, which is not a good fit for five-minute rapid-fire rounds,” he wrote.
Early in the testimony, former Clinton adviser Philippe Reines argued Republicans would use the rapid-fire pace of the hearing to make Mueller look bad.
“Watch subsequent Republicans mimic the obnoxious speed with which Collins is badgering Mueller,” he wrote. “It’s intended to make Mueller ask to repeat questions and portray him as out of it.”
Update – July 24, 2019: We removed a passage in which Mueller said that his office didn’t prosecute Trump because of the Office of Legal Counsel opinion that argued against indicting a sitting president. Mueller issued a “correction” later in his testimony.
“I want to add one correction to my testimony this morning,” he said. “I want to go back to one thing that was said this morning by Mr. Lieu who said ‘You didn’t charge the president because of the OLC opinion.’ That is not the correct way to say it. As we say in the report, and as I said at the opening, we did not reach a determination as to whether the president committed a crime.”
[Screengrab House Judiciary Committee]