“Very, very painful” to watch: that’s how former Barack Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod described Mueller’s eight-hour testimony before Congress Wednesday. Democrats called the former special counsel before the two committees to clarify a number of questions about his two-volume report presented to the Justice Department in March. After becoming dissatisfied with Attorney General William Barr’s redacted version of the report which he presented to Congress, Democrats subpoenaed the unredacted version of the report - and then sought testimony from Mueller himself, when Barr continued to resist.
However, following direction from the Department of Justice to limit his answers to conclusions arrived at in his eponymous report, Mueller often found himself dodging leading questions from lawmakers of both parties and simply giving noncommittal answers like “I can't answer that question,” “I’m not going to get into that” and “That’s outside my purview.”
Even when he did answer questions more fully, the former FBI director remained laconic, limiting his answers to short affirmations or demurring parries.
To lawmakers and observers expecting Mueller’s testimony to set the record straight on questions about alleged Russian collusion with the Trump campaign, alleged attempts to interfere in the 2016 election and whether US President Donald Trump obstructed justice by interfering with Mueller’s investigation, the former special counsel’s terseness left them baffled and frustrated.
The Mueller report concluded that Trump’s election campaign did not collude with the Russian government, but reported that Moscow made several attempts to interfere with the election in a variety of ways, including hacking the Democratic National Committee’s emails and delivering them to WikiLeaks for publishing. The Russian government has denied all such claims. Mueller also said he deferred to Barr on whether or not Trump obstructed justice, and Barr concluded there wasn’t sufficient evidence to say he had.
🤔 Hmm...Does Robert Mueller have #DEMENTIA ???— ✝️ Divine Mercy (@jy_liberty) July 24, 2019
He seems disoriented and unable to follow the questioning.
Mueller: “ugh ugh, I can’t get into that” #WhoWroteTheMuellerReport#MuellerDementia #MuellerHearings ##DesperateDeepStateStooge @mitchellvii https://t.co/1hXBSjclzL
To some, it seemed as if Mueller knew little about the report that bore his name, and they wondered if it was he or his lieutenants who assembled and drew conclusions about the nearly two-year-long probe. One person drew a comparison to a scene in the 1999 film “Office Space,” in which an employee is grilled by auditors as to just how essential his position really is:
It's funny how much the Mueller testimony today resembles the Office Space scene where the Bobs try to figure out what Tom Smykowski actually does at work each day.— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) July 24, 2019
"What would you say you do here?" pic.twitter.com/2QbetHk2hu
Others noted that lawmakers set themselves up for failure by hitting Mueller with heavily framed questions instead of simple, yes-or-no queries about facts, forcing him to reject their interpretations and not give them the answers they really sought.
It might have benefited Congress to hire an attorney to question Mueller given that so many are asking him questions based on their own interpretations, forcing him to respond, "I can't answer that." Need mostly yes/no formatting instead, sticking to the facts of the report.— eye2country (@eye2winner) July 24, 2019
Some folks found the hearing just plain boring and saw it as proof Mueller was a figurehead for an investigation about whose contents he’s shockingly illiterate.