Asked to Put on a Show, Mueller Wishes You’d Read the Book

Asked to Put on a Show, Mueller Wishes You’d Read the Book

They brought graphics with quotes from the report. If Americans weren’t going to read the Mueller Report as a book, they would at least get it as a PowerPoint.

The Republicans, on the other hand, seemed to be producing an episode of “Hannity.” Their questions — heated and rich with references to the Steele dossier, purported conflicts of Mr. Mueller’s staff and charges of witch-hunting — seemed aimed less at a general audience than one of intense Fox News viewers. (Maybe one intense Fox News viewer in particular. I’m just guessing.)

The president’s defenders didn’t seem to expect answers; more than one, in fact, cut Mr. Mueller off when he did try to answer, citing limited time. They had their own show to perform. “Donald Trump is not above the law,” Representative John Ratcliffe, Republican of Texas, told Mr. Mueller, “but he damn sure should not be below the law.”

Generally, Mr. Mueller’s answers were parsimonious. Often, they were abrupt. Occasionally, they were coy. When Representative Veronica Escobar of Texas, a Democrat, asked Mr. Mueller about the “constitutional processes” that might deal with accusations against the president, he answered, “I think I heard you mention at least one.” Was it impeachment?, she asked. “I’m not going to comment.”

It was like some sort of obscure riddle contest, with questioners trying to guess the magic words that would get the sphinx to reveal its secrets. (If only someone had asked, “What have I got in my pocket?”)

Of course, the expectation was that the hearings wouldn’t break new information. In that sense, they didn’t disappoint. The real calling card was an extended appearance, at last, by Robert Mueller, national man of mystery — someone who, as Lester Holt put it on NBC, “has figured in our conversations for more than two years now” yet “a lot of us don’t remember or hadn’t heard his voice.”

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