The day before special counsel Robert Mueller was to testify in Congress, Donald Trump made a point of telling reporters that “No, I’m not going to be watching. [adding that] Maybe I’ll see a little bit of it.” Instead, Trump spent much of the morning on Wednesday live-tweeting the hearings. And his commentaries were pretty much what would be expected of someone fraught with guilt and fear.
The Mueller report was 438 pages probing Trump’s unsavory connections to Russia during his campaign and presidency, and his efforts to cover up those crimes. But Mueller was a reluctant witness whose testimony was restricted to merely affirming the contents of the report. Consequently, the hearings were not particularly compelling drama. Democrats read from the report and asked Mueller if their quotations were accurate. Republicans ignored the facts and focused on attempts to discredit Mueller and the investigation in its entirety.
Nevertheless, the contents of the report are damning enough without elaboration. The facts that point to Trump’s guilt with regard to conspiracy and obstruction are apparent in quantity and clarity. And Democrats on the House Justice Committee made great strides in presenting the legal arguments for Trump’s impeachment. Three exchanges in particular form the core of the case against Trump. Beginning with this:
Rep. Nadler: The President has repeatedly claimed that your report found that there was no obstruction and that it completely and totally exonerated him. But that is not what your report said, is it?
Mueller: Correct. That is not what the report said.
Here's the moment that will get played over and over:
Nadler: "Did you actually totally exonerate the president?"
Via ABC pic.twitter.com/3zG8a6S2Z0
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) July 24, 2019
So Trump’s repetitive and tedious protestations that the report said there was “no collusion, no obstruction.” have been firmly repudiated by the report’s author, under oath. In another exchange, Mueller made it clear that Trump and his associates blatantly interfered with his investigation:
Rep. Demings: Lies by Trump campaign officials and administration officials impeded your investigation.
Mueller: I would generally agree with that.
— NBC News (@NBCNews) July 24, 2019
Finally, there has been much debate over why Mueller didn’t indict Trump for the crimes that he documented in his report. Rep. Ted Lieu dived straight into that question and got a definitive response from Mueller:
Rep. Lieu: The reason that you did not indict Donald Trump is because of OLC [Office of Legal Counsel] opinion stating that you cannot indict a sitting president. Correct?
Mueller: That is correct.
Mueller reiterates that OLC decision is reason why he didn't indict Trump pic.twitter.com/urwwpEWoNb
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) July 24, 2019
(Note: Mueller corrected himself later in the day to say that he had misspoken and that his probe did not make a determination as to guilt or innocence. But that isn’t correct either. He explicitly said that Trump was not exonerated and enumerated at least ten instances of obstruction of justice. Also, his report did identify the OLC memo as an impediment to the special counsel issuing indictments of Trump).
These portions of Mueller’s testimony show that Trump is guilty of criminal acts, including his efforts to conceal those crimes. And all of this information was in Mueller’s report. But its delayed release, and misrepresentation by Trump’s shill at the Justice Department, William Barr, muddied the waters and deliberately doused the matter with confusion. That was as much a crime of obstruction of justice as anything that Trump did.
For his part, Trump unleashed a tweetstorm of eleven posts aimed at further distorting the truth that he knew would be revealed in the hearings. And for good measure, they included two predictably biased assessments that he attributed to Fox News. He baselessly accused Democrats of “fabricat[ing] a crime” to “try pinning it on a very innocent President.” Which is funny, in a sad and pathetic way.
He also threatened Mueller not to deny under oath that he had sought an interview for the job of FBI Director. Of course Mueller was asked about that during his testimony, and he did deny it. And Trump banged out another of his substanceless and impotent rage-tweets:
No collusion. No obstruction, No impeachment. Shut the coup cabal down!
— Tom Fitton (@TomFitton) July 24, 2019
This is not the behavior of an innocent man. Trump is so obviously and thoroughly consumed with fear that it can’t help but ooze from every orifice in his body. And he has good reason to be afraid. He knows what he did. And knows the consequences when everyone else finds out. And so we can expect him to continue these tirades, and even ratchet them up as the law gets ever closer to holding him accountable.
UPDATE: At the beginning of the House Intelligence Committee’s hearing with Mueller, Chairman Adam Schiff extracted some profound and damning revelations about Trump’s crimes:
SCHIFF: Trump and his campaign welcomed & encouraged Russian interference?
SCHIFF: And then Trump and his campaign lied about it to cover it up?
This alone is enough to impeach the President of the United States.pic.twitter.com/uunEzA9iVv
— Mikel Jollett (@Mikel_Jollett) July 24, 2019
How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.