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In the wake of Robert Mueller's testimonies before the House Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday morning and the House Intelligence Committee in the afternoon, several commentators are left wondering to what degree the special counsel was actually in charge of the investigation.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said on Fox & Friends yesterday that it was "very clear" to him that Mueller didn't know what was in the report. "He clearly didn't have the energy and the focus to have managed a two-year investigation," said Gingrich. "I thought it was a sad moment."
Gingrich evidently viewed it as a "sad moment" because he initially supported the appointment of Mueller to be special prosecutor.
"When [Mueller] was first appointed, I tweeted in favor of him because I thought – given his background – that he was a good choice," said the former congressman. "But it was clear in a very few weeks that he had turned it over to a group of left-wing, anti-Trump, Democratic lawyers – and my guess is that they were the ones who ran the investigation; they're the ones who made the decisions.
"And frankly, … now that we've seen how really weak and confused Mueller was, I hope the attorney general will open an internal investigation to find out who was really making the decisions and who really is the author of this report – because it's clearly not Bob Mueller."
Horace Cooper, a former constitutional law professor who now serves as a senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research, came to the same conclusion as Gingrich regarding Mueller's demeanor. He observes that the former FBI director struggled to address even basic parts of his own report.
"To observe him [at Wednesday's hearings] is to observe a person who seemed very much in mental decline," Cooper tells OneNewsNow. "After watching him, this partisan hackery becomes very obvious when the author of it can't even comprehend or explain or even recognize basic components of the report."
Cooper continues: "This was a dud with regard to the effort of Democrats to use this event as a way to damage or harm the president. In fact, it showed that instead of spending the serious time and the few remaining days left this week before they go into August recess to do the people's business, they wasted it on this."
"The American people – if they were paying attention [to the hearings] – would find that they learned nothing new," Cooper adds. "And, in fact, [the hearings] reaffirmed their view that surveys are showing nearly two-thirds of Americans say there was nothing of any merit in the report that should have required Congress to stop the important business that they were working on and instead turn to it instead.
"To the degree that they don't want to do that, it's very likely the American people will rightly punish them."
Confused, uninformed … or just stressed?
One member of the House Judiciary Committee had a somewhat different reaction to Mueller's demeanor during the hearings.
" … I think clearly the stress of the event weighed heavily upon him," said Congressman Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) during an appearance yesterday on Washington Watch with Tony Perkins. "There was so much attention paid to this: it was a literal circus atmosphere. People started lining up yesterday afternoon and camped out all night to try to get into the hearing room and all that. The line was wrapped around the building when we arrived. Media from all around the planet. It was just a crazy scene – and he knew he was in the center of that."
But Mueller, according to Johnson, is not one who gets "rattled" easily. "He has a stellar resume of service to his country, and we all acknowledge and respect that – but he seemed a little shaken. He seemed just exhausted by it all, and I'm sure he's very grateful that it's over now."
That said, Johnson argues the hearings covered no new ground. He pointed out that Mueller stood by his pledge that he would only speak to his report.
"Mr. Mueller himself … famously said that when he had his press conference [on May 29]. He said, I'm going to stick to the four corners of this document and that'll be that. And so, he came in voluntarily because he finally assessed that it was inevitable; [that] he would have to do it to make everyone quiet down. He showed up and he did exactly that: he stuck to the four corners of the document."
And because Mueller didn't deviate from that plan, Johnson contends House Democrats must be "terribly disappointed."
"They truly hoped, as I said in my closing statement, that there was really one reason that Mr. Mueller was called to testify today, [and] that was to give political cover to our colleagues on the other side of the aisle. They desperately wanted him to tell them that they had to impeach the president. He did not do that. His report, of course, did not do that and that's where we are today."
Editor's note: Additional comments from Horace Cooper were added after story was originally posted.
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