On Wednesday, the head of the special council investigating Russian election interference, Robert Mueller, testified before two House of Representative committees to answer questions about his report.
The testimony went on for around five hours, first in front of the House Judiciary Committee for three hours then the House Intelligence Committee for two more hours. The results of his appearance leave Democrats in much the same position they were when the report was released in April.
Much of what Mueller said can be boiled down to short answers of ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘I can’t answer that’ and ‘read the report.’ Mueller stated in a press conference held in May that if called before Congress he would not add more than what was in the report, which remained mostly true.
Democrats mostly wanted to hold the hearing to get Mueller to reiterate what was in the report for the American public, hoping to get greater support for impeachment against Trump. This was met with middling success, with some Democrats saying it helped push along impeachment possibilities while Republicans declared it a failure. The fact that Mueller was not able to confirm or deny many of the questions asked by both Democrats and Republicans led many to see his testimony as unhelpful.
Much of the media buzz following what Mueller said focused on the lack of a powerful statement or two to be able to point to as definitive proof of one thing or another. Democrats asked questions in the hope of getting Mueller to conclusively state that Trump committed a crime, but instead Mueller stuck to his word and barely strayed from the report.
In one instance highlights the lack of emphasis Democrats were hoping for. When answering a question from congressman Ted Lieu who asked if the policy of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) to not indict a sitting president is what stopped Mueller from indicting Trump, Mueller said yes. At Mueller’s later testimony in front of the House Intelligence committee, Mueller started off by correcting his earlier statement to say “we did not reach a determination as to whether the president committed a crime.”
One of the few things of note was that Mueller did say Trump could be indicted upon leaving office, and that attempts unsuccessful attempts to obstruct justice, implied to be what Trump did, still counts as a crime. This gives the tiniest hint that Mueller thinks Trump committed a crime, but, like with all of Mueller’s statements, they are still stated in such a way to preclude Mueller from making any definitive judgments on anything surrounding where to go next with Trump
In the end, Democrats are left in the same position they started, trying to push forwards towards impeachment with not enough support in their own party, over 90 have said they want impeachment, to try removing the president. And while Democrats know impeachment would go nowhere in the Senate, they are hoping that beginning the proceedings might move things along, but considering the current political climate, that will be more difficult.