It seems that at parts of today’s House Intelligence Committee hearing with former special counsel Robert Mueller, the Republicans are not exactly certain what their strategy is going to be, and as a result, some of them are doing more damage to the President’s declarations of innocence than even the Democrats are. From going off on tangents of conspiracy theories to shouting at Mueller about things he’s already answered, GOP questioners are kind of all over the place today — it’s not a good look.
Perhaps the most glaring example, though, could come back to haunt Donald Trump like absolutely nothing else that’s happened so far in this hearing, and it came from Colorado Representative Ken Buck.
Buck’s exchange with Mueller followed immediately after a slow, deliberate explanation of the three key elements of an “obstruction of justice” charge that Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond walked the prosecutor through: An obstructive act, the knowledge that the act would interfere with an official proceeding, and a corrupt intent — the carrying out of the act in order to preserve one’s own self-interest.
It was like a perfect setup for subsequent questions, because Richmond clearly established that, at least in the case of having told former White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller, Trump had committed obstruction.
So when Rep. Buck’s turn to question the witness came, you might expect that he would deflect or steer the line of reasoning away from whether or not Donald Trump was guilty of a crime. But he really wanted a soundbite, it seems, so he pursued it by asking Mueller why, if Trump was guilty, he didn’t charge him with the crime.
Mueller’s answer was concise: The Office of Legal Counsel made it clear to his office that a sitting President could not be indicted. In fact, Mueller characterized that statement as OLC having taken away one of his “tools” as a prosecutor.
But then Buck asked the most bizarre question of all, if he was actually trying to protect Donald Trump.
Buck: Can you indict him after he leaves office?
Shortly after, California Democrat Ted Lieu corralled Mueller into clarifying what he meant:
Lieu: The reason, again, that you did not indict Donald Trump is because of the OLC opinion stating that you cannot indict a sitting president, correct?
Mueller: That is correct.”
That’s exactly the exchange that Republicans were hoping to avoid today.
Featured image via screen capture
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