That the world ends with a whimper we have on the authority of T. S. Eliot. But that the Mueller “RUSSIA!” probe ends with a whimper we have on the authority of our own eyes—or at least the eyes of those who watched the Mueller hearing on July 24.
It was, in its own way, sad when the great Robert Mueller went down—though no husband or wives or little children lost their lives. But it was still sad.
Several points should be made. The first point is that Robert Mueller is a good man. Not, perhaps, a great man, but a good man. That’s a lot. Most good people are only good people, not great people. Mueller served his country, both in war (wounded in Vietnam, received a Bronze Star) and in peace, as a US attorney, US assistant attorney general, and US deputy attorney general, and as head of the FBI, where he did two stints, a first. After a single stint, Mueller could have gone to a prestigious law firm and made, literally, millions. Instead, he chose to serve his country. Quick: name three people who have not cashed in the way Mueller could have.
The second point is that even good people make mistakes. Mueller made six in his capacity as the Special Counsel.
1. He accepted the assignment. We know, more or less but sufficiently, that former FBI head James Comey was a snake in the grass of the Russia probe, perhaps the snake. The Russia probe business was a set-up by the deep state folks who wanted to unhorse Donald Trump who out-jousted St. Hillary in the 2016 contest. Comey was a central player in that setup, perhaps because his actions as FBI head during the 2016 campaign (reopening with great publicity the investigation into Hillary’s email scandal) may have caused Hillary to lose the election. There’s nothing wrong with Mueller and Comey being friends, but because of that friendship, Mueller should not have taken the assignment.
2. Mueller hired a bunch of hardcore liberals to help him investigate the president. At the very least, that gave the whole investigation the patina of a witch hunt. We pause to note that there’s nothing wrong with hunting witches and burning them when you find them, so long as the burnees are actual witches. Question to reader: Can we say this or are witches now a protected class?
There is one, theoretical, excuse for Mueller’s having hired a bunch of lefties for his team: it might have made any finding of no collusion more definitive—and perhaps acceptable to the Left, to the left-wing crazies, to the deep state never-Trump left-wing crazy zealots.
It didn’t. Which means it simply tainted Mueller’s whole investigation.
3. Mueller apparently didn’t investigate the Fusion GPS operation, which was the genesis of the Russia collusion theory. If A says B murdered C, an investigation into whether B actually did murder C should take a look at A. Did A have any evidence for his claim that B murdered C? And what was A’s motivation for making the charge? Mueller failed to pursue that line.
4. Mueller seems not to have been actively in charge of writing the report—and perhaps not in charge of the investigation either. Asked at the hearing about the firm that produced that Steele report (Fusion GPS), Mueller responded, “I’m not familiar with that.” If you’ve read the book and still don’t know it was the Grinch who stole Christmas, something’s wrong with you.
It’s not clear who did write the report. It looks now as if Andrew Weissmann, described by the New York Times as Mueller’s legal pitbull, and a friend of Hillary’s (he attended her “victory” night party in 2016) was in charge. We don’t know that, but Mueller’s extraordinary unfamiliarity with the report at the hearing (he was once known for his sharpness) suggests that someone else was actually in charge. Weissmann is the obvious suspect. Weissmann is anti-Trump.
5. Mueller (almost certainly) didn’t end the investigation when he should have. The question is, when did Mueller determine that Trump had not colluded with the Russians? We don’t know, but a good guess is, a long time ago, even before the 2016 midterm election. In which case, Mueller’s not shutting down the investigation before that election may have influenced the election’s outcome. That is bad, verrry bad. And Mueller bears responsibility for that—as much responsibility, ironically, as has been foisted off on the Russians for their attempts to disrupt the 2016 election.
6. Mueller’s arrests of Paul Manafort and Roger Stone were scenes out of Communist Russia or Nazi Germany. Probably Weissmann was in charge of those operations, but the buck stops at Mueller’s desk. Shameful.
7. Mueller’s report said it could not exonerate the president. But that is true of all investigations. How do you ever prove a negative? You don’t. You just say that there is not sufficient evidence to make a positive claim. But the Mueller report (which may not be the same as Mueller himself) didn’t say that. It said Mueller and his investigator couldn’t prove that Trump had not colluded with the Russians. That was a gratuitous smear of the president, and Mueller bears responsibility for that.
The third point to be made is that Mueller’s performance at the hearing seemed odd; oddly incompetent. One news account after another reported that Mueller wasn’t the sharp lawyer he used to be. Some people thought he’d had a minor stroke. So we are required (by Western Civ standards) to be charitably disposed to Bob Mueller, a good man, a good family man, and to his family—even as the whole sordid (anti-Trump, anti-democracy) business winds down to nothing.
And so it ends, not with the bang of impeachment but with Democrats whimpering that the only way to dispose of President Trump is by an election.
What finally, are we likely to learn from this whole sordid business? The smart money is on: nothing.
Daniel Oliver is Chairman of the Board of the Education and Research Institute and a Director of Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy in San Francisco. In addition to serving as Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission under President Reagan, he was Executive Editor and subsequently Chairman of the Board of William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review.
Email Daniel Oliver at [email protected]