Shorts & Briefs | 24 July 2019 | Just What Is Expected from Grilling Mueller?

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Not to suggest that the House and Senate have a statutory sworn, not to mention ethical and moral, duty to perform in the areas of inquiry and oversight of all branches of government as the people’s representatives within that government, but it seemed clear enough how these sessions with Special Counsel Robert Mueller would go. It was sort of clear back in March when the report was made final, and it’s become clearer and clearer in the four months since.

The course of this testimony, in substance, in rhetoric, and in its conduct by all participants seemed wholly predictable from the tenor of the entire report he delivered to the Attorney General at the conclusion of the special investigation he was charged with performing, and from the tenor of all remarks that issued from his office during the execution of it. Predictable also afterwards in response to attempts by the press to inquire more deeply into the meaning of the conclusions the public was allowed to consider. Further, such an expectation was reinforced in the first weeks and months of the history of the report’s release. Such an expectation grew out of the initial impression of the 400+ page report, and irrespective of anticipated, but hardly substantive, redaction for reasons of security and judicious legal prophylaxis of information still under inquiry and potentially probative if left uncontaminated. Predictable even with, if not despite, the disquietude expressed by Mr. Mueller and his office in response to certain remarks and courses of action by the Attorney General while reviewing and finally sharing the report with Congress and the public reinforced that impression and any expectation of possible further elucidation – never mind satisfaction of the illusory prospects of the usual magical smoking guns of possible prosecutorial investment. Mueller demonstrated all along, and continues to do so, a dedication to the clinical and sparing rhetoric, marked by precision of language and a certain frustrating (to us; each of us) concision in the relation of particulars of a conclusion based on testimony and other evidence of the investigating magistrate bent on being, in the strictest sense, without bias or political intent.

It is not only in war, but in prolonged and pronounced universal skullduggery and chicanery, that truth is an orphan. And orphans, too often, have nothing to say when asked, whether with cajolery or aggression, of the traumatic events that reduced them to their present mute condition. There is invariably the silence of traumatic stress: after the continuous discharge of energy necessary to be expended, sometimes explosively, in the conduct of what sometimes is not a clearly criminal act, or in the collateral efforts necessary to cloak that act in obscurity, obfuscation, and eradication of details. What we might otherwise hope to be probative facts, but end up only as suggestive pointers to alternative truths.

It was Mueller’s job not to prosecute, but to investigate. Not to prove a crime, but to discover if one had been committed. He did. It’s not been his job to provide proof, especially under the constraints determined by the political history of our judicial process as they pertain to those who, under oath, are charged with the guardianship, through laws, through adjudication, and by execution of the conduct of our system of governance. It’s a sad state we have come to that the means by which we pursue miscreants in the highest offices of our land, have been blunted and constrained over the past 50 years. We did too good a job, by some measures, dealing with the conduct of the administrations of three presidents, Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton, to allow the mechanisms we wisely had in place to contain any further misconduct and malfeasance by parties on all sides of the process to be retained—not by the current breed of politicians who are the stewards of the common good.

We can hardly blame Mueller for acting with the kind of restraint and adherence to principle that we wish every elected official in Washington, and all other seats of government would do. We can hardly fault him for consistent conduct in that regard. We can hardly be disappointed he holds himself strictly to the letter—not one more or less—of the report which bears his name.

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