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Ground Game

Missed today’s Mueller hearings? Here’s a cheat sheet on what happened

Highlights from the Mueller testimony
Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees on Wednesday. (Photo: Alex Wong / Getty Images)

Seven hours of Robert Mueller testifying in front of two different US House committees have concluded, and after the first 45 minutes, even those really interested in the topic would be forgiven if they found something else do to.

Yes, it was a sleepy affair. There were no major bombshells as Mueller offered one-word answers more than 150 times and refused to answer a question about as often.

If you are just checking in to see what happened, here is a quick guide.

Q: Was there a major moment?

A: Not really. There was no moment that made people gasp or blow up on social media. For all the hype that history would be made Wednesday, well, that didn’t happen in a big way. Mueller stuck to the report, and there was no “gotcha” moment.


Q: No highlights at all?

A: There were a handful of moments that will be talked about.

1. The biggest one was Mueller’s assertion that his report did not exonerate the president. Yes, Mueller wrote that in his report, but here he said it on television. And it is at total odds to how Attorney General William Barr originally characterized the 446-page report before it was released.

2. Mueller said that, theoretically, Trump could be charged with a crime once he left office.

3. When Mueller was asked whether he would charge President Trump with obstruction of justice if he weren’t president, he responded, “Yes, that is correct.” But he later cleared that up and stood by his report’s language that he “could make no determination.”

4. Mueller was the most pointed when he said it wasn’t OK for Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr. to celebrate and promote WikiLeaks during the campaign.

5. At the very end of the hearing, he was asked whether Trump had been less than truthful in his written responses to Mueller, and Mueller said he had been. Let’s see whether that gets cleaned up soon before we make too much of a big deal about it.


Q: Is it more or less likely the president will be impeached based on what was said today?

A: Probably less likely. As it stands, a majority of House Democrats don’t support impeachment, and it is hard to see how that would change after what was said Wednesday morning. But saying it is just the same is missing a bigger point: Yesterday, Democrats could hold hope that the hearings could have been a big deal. But now, their opportunity is up; it is hard to imagine how Mueller is going to come back for more questioning.

Q: What did Democrats try to do?

A: They organized an effort to read parts of the Mueller report, section by section. They wanted to make a movie out of the special counsel’s report; however, Mueller repeatedly refused to read the report himself.

Q: What did Republicans try to do?

A: They used their time to attack Mueller and his report, and to suggest this was all about politics and impeachment.

Q: How did Mueller do?

A: There was a lot of criticism online that he was not on his game and not answering questions, but here is the thing: Unlike members of Congress, he was under oath, and he isn’t running for office. He doesn’t have to be entertaining. He wanted his report to speak for itself, and for the most part, he stuck to that.


Q: What about Russia?

A: Russian interference with the 2016 election was the first of two parts of the Mueller probe and the very reason the special counsel position was created in the first place, but proportionately, it got little attention. In the last hour, Representative Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, and Representative Will Hurd, a Texas Republican, asked nonpartisan deep-dive questions, but that was about it.

Overall, Mueller appeared to be the most animated about Russia, but there was little insight offered about preventing Russian interference in 2020.

Q: Was anyone from “The Squad” on these panels?

A: No.