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Mueller should watch his back by watching ours

by Tom Sullivan

“All options are on the table” is among the most hoary pronouncements in American politics. Speaker Nancy Pelosi inverted the line at an appearance in San Francisco this week, telling an audience about impeachment, “Nothing is off the table.” Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), House Judiciary Committee chairman, on Friday invoked the original in telling WNYC on Friday there is “certainly” justification for impeaching Donald Trump, but the American people must support it before that happens:

“The American people right now do not support it because they do not know the story. They don’t know the facts. We have to get the facts out. We have to hold a series of hearings, we have to hold the investigations.”

Nadler wants to bring former special counsel Robert Mueller‘s report “to life” for them.

Doing so will require the cooperation of the report’s principal author, Robert Mueller himself. Mueller insisted on Wednesday he did not want to testify publicly, that his report must stand on its own:

I hope and expect this to be the only time that I will speak about this matter. I am making that decision myself—no one has told me whether I can or should testify or speak further about this matter.

There has been discussion about an appearance before Congress. Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report. It contains our findings and analysis, and the reasons for the decisions we made. We chose those words carefully, and the work speaks for itself.

The report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.

But Mueller’s inverted, Yoda-like phrasing describing the report’s findings stand in the way of the report’s words speaking for themselves. He spoke them again on Wednesday, saying, “… if we had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that.”

“We have evidence the president committed crimes” would have been too blunt and unlwayerly, one supposes. Mueller gave a reason for being so indirect. “It would be unfair to potentially accuse somebody of a crime,” Mueller said, when the accused has no “adversarial opportunity” (the report’s phrasing) to clear his name.

Bringing “to life” the dangers the sitting administration poses to rule of law and to the republic, however, will require directness. It requires putting a face, a name, and a voice behind words on a page that have none. Nor can the evidence underlying Mueller’s report speak from pages in which they do not appear.

In a sign of increasing Republican desperation, even Rep. Devin Nunes of California, ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, this week demanded release of those underlying documents in hopes he can expose Mueller as a fraud.

Nunes and his allies will surely make that charge — vigorously — without regard for whether Mueller is there to defend himself and the efforts of his team.

Hullabaloo alum David Atkins argues at Washington Monthly that Mueller’s desire to avoid the politics of impeachment is itself a political decision. Besides, the attorney general has already publicly mischaracterized Mueller’s work to assist a Trump cover-up:

Once accountability becomes a matter for Congress rather than law enforcement, everything about it becomes a de facto political spectacle. Testimony given in private makes no difference, as quiet secrecy is precisely what the president’s defenders are counting on for his defense. By contrast, the president and Attorney General Barr are clearly set on selectively and speciously declassifying elements of the investigation designed to cast the investigators in a bad light. The institutions—or the institutionalists within them—likely won’t be able to resist that pressure.

Mueller refusing to testify, or agreeing to testify only behind closed doors only assists Trump‘s allies in covering up the very crimes he worked so assiduously to uncover.

If the only information the former Marine will give up under public questioning is to read back the quote, page, and volume number from his own report, let him recite for a national audience his analysis of the 10 episodes supporting an obstruction case beginning on page 15 of Part II.

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