I watched almost all of the House Judiciary Committee hearing with Robert Mueller this morning. The Intel Committee is now up on a second screen of this computer. If we discount the various posturing of members on both sides, one very obvious point is observed by Laura Loomer.
Initially I resisted the implication that yet another public figure was physically failing. But as I watched further, I was struck by some details in Mueller’s performance. The first impression is of a sphinx. Many questions by both sides were met with, “I stand by what the report says,” or some variation of that theme. That matches what Mueller said he would do.
But on further examination, it became clear that Mueller simply does not know the full contents of “his” report. Part of that could be due to the size of the report, but almost every questioner referred to the opening summary portions of the two volumes, and Mueller demonstrated repeated difficulty with command of the summary statements. There are several possible reasons for this.
First, as Mueller admitted, he was only casually involved in most of the investigative and deliberative parts of the Special Counsel endeavor. In other words, he was a figurehead, while Andrew Weissman was the actual Counsel. And that brings us to a collateral problem.
Mueller declared that he paid no attention whatever to the political affiliations of the attorneys he brought in. This demonstrates a titanic error in judgment. The Special Counsel is necessarily a political process. Combining that with the legal concern for the “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree,” Mueller showed that the constitution of the inquiry was faulty. For America to have any faith in his conclusions, Mueller had to have a staff the was widely recognized as fair. Even a divided group with some Dems and some Reps would be better than “Fourteen Angry Democrats.”
Second, the Counsel had considerable trouble following questions. A questioner would point him to “page x” and present a clear question. Numerous times he would ask for the question to be presented a second time. You could argue that his hearing was impaired, but too often he did hear clearly on the first pass. Thus, it appears that Mueller was having difficulty with the logic of the questions. This happened too many times to be simply an accident. And it just happened in the Intel Committee with a question from Representative Wenstrup.
Third, Mueller had extreme difficulty with simple concepts. When the Ranking Member asked Mueller if “collusion” and “conspiracy” were synonymous in the public mind, he answered, “No.” Even when Representative Collins pointed Mueller to the paragraph in the report where that exact equivalence was noted, the Counsel was unable to accept his own words, citing the need to “research” the issue. Of note, in the afternoon Intelligence Committee hearing Mueller used the argument in discussion.
Fourth, when Representative Reschenthaler quoted the late AG Janet Reno, and then asked Mueller if he agreed with her concerns about the abuse of power. Mueller then responded to a question that had not been asked regarding a statute. When the Representative refreshed the question, Mueller still had difficulty understanding that the Reno quote and the question.
Former Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr notes that the Robert Mueller he knew was very vital and vigorous. The Robert Mueller we have seen is halting and unsure. In short, he fits the ordinary description of “elderly.” At the same time, we see memory lapses and difficulty with simple logical constructions. His repeated refusal to answer pertinent questions echoes the decades-rehearsed non-denial response of the lifetime bureaucrat.
While none of this is diagnostic, it raises a serious question. This frail gentleman lacks the vigor needed to either be Special Counsel or to testify meaningfully. His memory lapses and difficulties with simple logic speak to the likely onset of some form of dementia. Absent more detailed examination and evaluation, it would be difficult to argue in favor of a specific form of dementia. It could be the very common vascular dementia that results from small strokes known as lacunar infarcts. It could be early Alzheimer’s Disease. We just can’t be sure.
The final question hangs in front of us. How much of the Mueller investigation ran off the rails because the boss had lost a mental step?
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