A Wednesday’s Congressional goat-rope involving House Democrats and a befuddled Robert Mueller, the Democrats tried time and again to elicit from Mueller some new bit of information or sound bite that they could use to re-energize the push for impeachment by the radical fringe of a radical fringe party. The closest they came was when Ted Lieu questioned Mueller. Lieu walked Mueller through his understanding of how President Trump managed to obstruct justice while not actually obstructing anything. Mueller, who stares at the report of which he was allegedly the architect much as your average hog would stare at a Timex, reflexively answers “yes.” Then Lieu asks Mueller if the only reason he did not charge Trump with obstruction was the existence of Office of Legal Counsel guidance that says a sitting president may not be indicted by Department of Justice. Mueller says “yes.” This is the video cued up to that exchange:
This is significant. Because not only does the report declare that no determination was reached on obstruction, Attorney General Bill Barr testified to Congress that in briefings on the report that Mueller had on several occasions been asked if the OLC opinion was what kept him from doing his job:
[W]e specifically asked Robert Mueller about the OLC opinion and whether or not Robert Mueller was taking the position that Robert Mueller would have found a crime but for the existence of the OLC opinion, and he made it very clear several times that that was not his position. He was not saying that but for the OLC opinion he would have found a crime. He made it clear that he had not made the determination that there was a crime.
Later, Mueller corrected his statement.
Yesterday, Lieu was on Wolf Blitzer’s little show and spun up a conspiracy theory.
Rep. @tedlieu responds to Robert Mueller's clarification regarding guidance against indicting a President: “I don't know who got to him, I don’t know who talked to him, but that was very odd.” https://t.co/hKfyEFb7BC pic.twitter.com/kasLWHrjVu
— CNN (@CNN) July 25, 2019
BLITZER: It’s a serious problem. You were at the center yesterday of one of the most dramatic moments of the hearings with Robert Mueller. You have to walk back this testimony to you in response to your questioning that the reason that they didn’t formally indict the President was because of the Justice Department guidelines, a sitting president can’t be indicted.
But you say Mueller fully understood your question. Doesn’t Mueller’s correction, which he later provided, prove otherwise?
LIEU: This is what’s so odd about that exchange. Special Counsel Robert Mueller agreed that the OLC opinion prevented a sitting president from being indicted. And then the republican member after me asked him a series of questions to try to get him to walk it back, and he did not do that. And then it wasn’t until there was a recess in the Intel Committee that he started walk some of that back. I don’t know who got to him. I don’t know who talked to him, but that was very odd what he did.
BLITZER: Well, what are you suggesting? Because he said he misspoke, he didn’t understand or whatever it was. That’s why he wanted to clarify and walk back his response to your question. Are you saying he only did that because of pressure from someone?
LIEU: I don’t know. But he clearly answered the way he answered to me, and then he had numerous times to walk that back by the next republican member who asked a series of questions on exact same issue trying to get him to walk it back. So I don’t really understand what happened.
But we all agree and even Robert Mueller would agree that there is an OLC, Department of Justice opinion that says the sitting President of the United States cannot be indicted.
BLITZER: Yes. That’s what he repeatedly said that. He was working under those guidelines.
Mueller declined to even read from his report in response to a lot of questioning from the democrats. His answers were short, sometimes stilted. Do you think he did a disservice to his report during those hours of testimony yesterday?
LIEU: I would have liked if Special Counsel Robert Mueller was more talkative, but he did say yes and true to a large number of devastating facts. He also admitted in my questioning to the first two elements of obstruction of justice that were satisfied and then on the third element, intent, I simply read from his report, and it said, quote, substantial evidence, unquote, of evidence for intent.
So, basically, it’s as if Robert Mueller says, look, here is a piece of bread. I’m putting a piece of ham on that bread. Then I’m going to put another piece of bread on the ham, and we say that’s a ham sandwich. And he goes, no, I’m not going to call it that. Well, it’s a ham sandwich.
So that’s essentially what he did. He laid out the evidence and it meets the elements of obstruction of justice.
BLITZER: The House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, says it’s still not time to open impeachment proceedings in the House. Is this debate more about a lack of political will than a lack of evidence?
LIEU: Speaker Pelosi is an amazing speaker. I’m honored to be on her leadership team. She’s going to make this decision and consultation with the democratic caucus. And whatever decision she makes, I’m going to respect.
BLITZER: How unlikely is it that your committee, the Judiciary Committee, would launch a formal impeachment inquiry on its own without a full House vote?
LIEU: We’re not going to go rogue, Wolf. Everything that the Judiciary Committee does will have the blessing of Speaker Pelosi.
I’m going to tell you what’s going to come next. We’re going to file litigation to get the grand jury materials that we have not yet been able to see. We’re going to file litigation to compel Don McGahn to come and testify publicly before the Judiciary Committee, and we’ve asked Hope Hicks to come back and testify because she lied to us the first time that she testified.
This is nuts. What happened was pretty obvious. Mueller just gave an incorrect answer. And the technique Lieu used is one that I used frequently as an investigator for the Army’s Inspector General. Ask a series of questions that require all “yes” or all “no” answers, toss in your conclusion at the end and the subject will invariably answer the way he has before even when it carries an admission of guilt. After the break, Mueller corrected the record. The key factor here is that there was no other place in his testimony where Mueller diverged from the report in his answers.
Lieu, however, sees himself as some kind of a political wizard who elicited a game changing admission from Mueller…when no one else could…and who was foiled by unknown forces “got to” Mueller. It isn’t true. None of it.