Mueller’s faltering testimony a worry, says Arkansas congressman

Jul 25, 2019
In The News

Mueller’s faltering testimony a worry, says Arkansas congressman

Written by: Frank E. Lockwood
Published by: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

WASHINGTON — After questioning former special counsel Robert Mueller and watching others question him Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., voiced concerns about the mental sharpness of the one-time FBI director.

The man who investigated 2016 election interference by Russia and obstruction of justice allegations against President Donald Trump fared poorly while appearing on Capitol Hill, Crawford said.

“I thought he had a really bad day. His acuity was not what it should have been. … He just didn’t seem himself. He struggled to find words,” the lawmaker from Jonesboro said.

Wednesday’s hearings raised “legitimate concerns about his health,” he added.

Crawford, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, was allotted five minutes for questioning; he used less than two minutes before yielding the remainder of his time to U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the committee’s ranking member.

Initially, Crawford asked Mueller a question about Peter Strzok, an FBI agent who was removed from the Mueller investigation team and eventually fired after sending anti-Trump text messages.

“Uh, who? Can you repeat that?” Mueller, 74, said.

“Peter Strzok,” Crawford replied.

“Could you, I’m sorry. Could you move the microphone a little closer?” Mueller said.

Asked later whether text messages between Strzok and his lover, then-FBI attorney Lisa Page, had been “retained after they left the special counsel’s office,” Mueller replied: “Well, uh, I, I don’t, it depends on what you’re talking about. The investigation into, uh, those, uh, Peter Strzok, uh, went on for a period of time and I’m not certain what it encompasses. It may well have encompassed what you’re referring to.”

Crawford’s encounter with Mueller wasn’t an aberration.

Politico, the Washington-based political newspaper, said Mueller had “delivered a less-than-blockbuster performance, frequently dodging questions and repeatedly asking lawmakers to repeat their inquiries.”

The Washington Post described it as a “halting, faltering performance.”

It’s a spotlight Mueller had hoped to avoid.

After overseeing a nearly two-year-long investigation, Mueller submitted a report on March 22 to Attorney General William Barr detailing his filings. A summary of the report, crafted by Barr, was released two days later. On April 18, a redacted version of the Mueller report was made public.

Mueller made clear, early on, that he had no interest in testifying on Capitol Hill about his findings, telling reporters on May 29:

“Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report. It contains our findings and analysis and the reasons for the decisions we made. We chose those words carefully and the work speaks for itself. And the report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress,” he said.

House Democrats, however, insisted that he appear, eventually issuing a subpoena to compel his attendance.

In hindsight, that was a poor decision, Crawford said.

“There was no reason to bring this guy into that environment [and] subject him to this. It didn’t change one person’s opinion,” he said.

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