The takeaway from Mueller’s testimony keeps changing by the hour. After the huge build-up, the initial reaction was gloating in the Trump/Fox camp, deep disappointment among many Democrats, and a pile-on by the press. Mueller looked like a tired old man with his best years behind him, inclined to temporize when asked merely to confirm the multiple crimes laid out in his report.
“Much as I hate to say it, this morning’s hearing was a disaster,” tweeted Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe, who has argued that the House should pursue impeachment. “Far from breathing life into his damning report, the tired Robert Mueller sucked the life out of it. The effort to save democracy and the rule of law from this lawless president has been set back, not advanced.”
In this morning’s New York Times, chief Washington correspondent Carl Hulse wrote, rather incautiously, “President Trump was probably never going to be impeached by the House of Representatives before the 2020 elections. The testimony by Robert S. Mueller III, the former special counsel, makes that a near certainty.”
The endless cable news shows echoed the conventional wisdom: Speaker Pelosi was right, the Democratic Party left was wrong, impeachment is over, and good riddance.
But hold on. Buried in Mueller’s clunky delivery was a devastating indictment of a criminally liable president. And in the aftermath of the hearing, more Democrats in the House explicitly came out for impeachment, defying the media script and premature pile-on.
The House Judiciary Chair, Jerry Nadler, a close ally of Pelosi, was reported to have decided to move forward with an impeachment inquiry. So Mueller’s mediocre theater will soon be forgotten as a minor detail. Forget the play—read the book.
For folks in the media echo chamber, two pieces of wisdom to remember: It ain’t over till it’s over. And don’t speak too soon, for the wheel’s still in spin.
Also, in case this minor element got lost in all the premature punditry: Impeachment is the right thing to do. There are more than enough grounds to impeach this aspiring tyrant. The very least the House can do is to have a formal inquiry.