10 Questions I’d Ask Robert Mueller (if I were allowed)

Robert Mueller, former FBI Director, Former Special Counsel investigating alleged Trump-Russia collusion

The following is an excerpt of my latest analysis in The Hill.

Most of now-former special counsel Robert Mueller’s public statement to the press last week seemed to fall under the category of “Fair enough.” After all, the man did nearly two years of work, he kept largely silent throughout, and he alternately was called a hero or a dog.

So the day Mueller resigns, he chooses to make a fairly brief statementputting a button on all of it, and at the same time declining to take any questions, before gliding back into private life.

But there’s at least one comment Mueller made that nags at me. It’s when he said, “If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.” Mueller must have had his reasons for shading his commentary in that way rather than in the other direction: If they’d found adequate evidence to implicate Trump in a crime, or even “collusion,” they would have said that, too.

The statement Mueller chose to give carries with it an implication that his team looked for evidence of President Trump’s innocence but simply could not find it. With that in mind, I thought of a short list of questions I’d like to ask Mueller, if ever permitted to do so:

  1. What witnesses did you interview and what evidence did you collect in an attempt to exonerate Trump or prove him not guilty? (I believe the answer would be, “None. It’s not the job of a special counsel or prosecutor to do so.” Therefore, was Mueller’s comment appropriate?


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10 thoughts on “10 Questions I’d Ask Robert Mueller (if I were allowed)”

  1. Meuller’s response: “On advice of counsel I decline to answer your question on the grounds that I believe a truthful answer might tend to incriminate me.”

  2. Thomas Joseph Hussman

    Mr. Robert Swan Mueller gave evidence of being deceptive during his brief goodbye speech. At least twice he groomed his face with his hand. According to established investigative procedures – Mueller was lying about something.

  3. This has nothing to do with Mueller, but I am desperately trying to get you to cover the wholesale theft of America’s wealth by Wall Street and the mega banks. We have all the proof. Talk with Bill Black, Richard Bowen and Michael Winston. I am now 73 and 9 years of this hell have destroyed me financially, emotionally and physically. Revisit The Big Short, 99 Homes, Inside Job, Frontline’s The Untouchables. 20 million foreclosures. Banks paid billions in fines for consent agreements. Behavior has not changed.

  4. Outstanding, Ms. Atkisson; I’d pay good money to see you ask Mueller these very questions. He ought to be ashamed. Keep up the great work, PLEASE!!

  5. PLEASE WRITE ABOUT how David Brock’s shenanigans (smear network) are or are not different than the Russian interference in the 2016 US elections. Ask Robert Mueller if he researched the planting of bots and astroturfing by Brock including any Russian ties. Ask why the rank and file of the FBI were disappointed in Mueller not keeping his promise to them about moving managers around rather than letting them camp in a position for a long number of years. Ask Mueller why the US President (Obama) did not act to publicly assail or surreptitiously to stop Russian attempts to distort the election which occurred during his watch.
    I have an MS degree in geology, school board experience, leadership and management corporate and civic positions and am a Sharyl Attkisson aficionado

  6. First let me provide what I think is an obvious answer to your first question about why Mueller phrased his response to the obstruction charge the way that he did. In fact, this answer seems so obvious to me that I can’t help but wonder why it didn’t occur to you.
    There are really two parts to my answer. The first is that Mueller made it clear in his press conference that he was leaving the decision on obstruction of justice up to Congress. He was merely providing details of possible obstructive acts by Trump. But it was also clear to me that he believed that in fact Trump was guilty of obstruction of justice. So he’s not going to say that there was insufficient evidence because that doesn’t appear to be what he believes (he may be wrong in his belief, but that does appear to be what he truly believes).
    But really I believe that Mueller was simply responding to the mischaracterizations of his report by the right-wing media, many Republicans, and, mostly, Trump himself. All mischaracterized the Mueller report as exonerating Trump on the charge of obstruction (“NO COLLUSION, NO OBSTRUCTION”). I believe that Mueller was basically correcting that mischaracterization by saying that his report did not exonerate Trump on obstruction by clearly stating that if that was the import of the report, he would have said so clearly. He would have left no doubt.
    So, no, I don’t see anything mysterious in Mueller’s phrasing at all. But you apparently do, or you wouldn’t have brought it up. If you think that it reflects some flaw in Mueller’s character or reveals some bias in his investigation, you should make that clear.
    Question #1 above doesn’t really make a lot of sense to me. What was Mueller supposed to do, make a list of every activity that Trump engaged in that was not obstructive? Clearly almost all of Trump’s activities were not obstructive. So it’s not relevant to list those activities in the report. It’s like trying to exonerate a bank robber because he did some things besides rob banks.
    Questions #2 – #7 are at best peripherally related to Mueller’s investigation and come awfully close to being of the “do you still beat your wife” type. They seem to be simply a litany of possible misdeeds by Mueller or others within the FBI that are intended to challenge the legitimacy of the investigation without having to challenge any of the specifics in the report. They are so broad that there is no way that Mueller could answer them to your satisfaction. You are basically asking Mueller to prove a negative (the negative being that nothing bad was done).
    If you think that Mueller did something wrong in his investigation, why don’t you say what it is, or point out something in his report that wasn’t accurate? If you can’t do that, you should at least point out that none of these accusations have anything to do with the obstruction charge. Investigating that didn’t require any questionable FISA warrants. That just required a twitter account and a cable TV package.
    You seem to be basically saying “well, the FBI has done bad things in the past so we can’t trust them on anything that they are doing”.
    Even though these questions might be worthwhile investigating for other reasons, they have no bearing on this particular investigation. They appear to me to be an attempt to characterize practically everyone involved in the Russia investigation as a bad actor, I assume so that any untoward findings in the report can be dismissed as the results of biased minds. And it’s also a convenient means to call Mueller’s character into question.
    Question #8 is likewise irrelevant. What Democratic Party officials may or may not have done wasn’t part of Mueller’s purview. Why bring it up?
    The first part of question #9 has been answered by no less a Trump insider than Steve Bannon. And the answer is no. I understand that Trump has said it is a yes. But you have to understand my reluctance to just accept something that Trump said given the many times he has lied about things (that isn’t a smear, that’s just a fact). And, of course, if the answer to the first question is no, then the answer to the second question on there being a potential conflict is rendered moot.
    I agree that it would be interesting to have an answer to the first part of Question #10 directly from Mueller. We already know that he doesn’t believe that Trump is guilty of conspiring with the Russians. So the only remaining question is the one on obstruction. Mueller has made it clear that he isn’t going to answer that question in public. I believe that his press conference made it clear that he thinks Trump is guilty of obstruction. But it would still be interesting to know what he really thinks so we wouldn’t have to read between the lines.
    I don’t get the second part of Question #10. Mueller has already said that Trump isn’t guilty of conspiracy. That’s the only relevant question. What Mueller thinks of Trump’s possible criminal cleverness in possible other crimes is simply idle speculation (unless of course he has other information that hasn’t been made public yet). And I highly doubt that Mueller would engage in such speculation. He has too much integrity for that.
    Try as I might, I cannot understand the Right’s reaction to Mueller. I understand why the Left might be upset because Mueller refused to go outside the lines and say what it appears he really thinks. He hewed strictly to the DOJ guidelines as he understands them. But no one that I have heard on the Left has said anything negative about Mueller’s character. That has been the response from the Right. Somehow, a man who has served his country with distinction and honor his entire adult life is suddenly “conflicted”. And some of the other posted comments that Mueller should be “ashamed” and that he is “bought and paid for” strikes me as being way beyond the pale.
    But what I really don’t understand is that Mueller is being pilloried by the Right and, yet, his report cleared Trump of the original conspiracy charge. How biased could he have been? The obstruction stuff is Trump’s doing – and he did it mostly out in the open.
    All Mueller did was to provide details of possible obstructive acts. And so far, no one has challenged anything in his report that I’m aware of.
    There seems to be no bottom for this sort of thing. Both sides do it to some extent, but I believe that the Right is much worse. If someone says something critical of Trump or causes him some inconvenience, the response far too often isn’t a rebuttal of the statements; it’s an attack on the character or the intelligence of the person making the statements. It’s what Laura Ingraham did with her “shut up and dribble” response to Lebron James.
    And it’s what you are doing here. Under the guise of seeking information that is what I believe is mostly irrelevant to the real topics (is Trump guilty of obstruction or not and is there anything inaccurate in the Mueller report), you are attempting to smear the good name of someone like Mueller. You haven’t provided one example of anything that is in the Mueller report that you believe is not 100% accurate. Most of the questions that you raised are related to possible misdeeds by the FBI that led to possibly illegal surveillance of the Trump campaign. But even with that possibly illegal surveillance, Trump was still cleared of the conspiracy charge. Now you may feel that an investigation into the origins of the Mueller investigation is warranted to ferret out any possible FBI misdeeds. That’s fine. Perhaps some in the FBI did act unethically. But the possible misdeeds are not relevant to the current discussion of the Mueller report. They’re old news. Because none of the possible obstruction charges stem from any of these possible misdeeds by the FBI.
    Yet you persist in conflating what Mueller has documented on possible obstruction charges with possible misdeeds by the FBI in starting the original investigation. You have to see that these are separate topics. The only reason that I can see for this conflation is that it allows you to grind your axe against the FBI and Mueller.
    And grind away you do with statements like “his parting shot raised plenty of questions”. Really? All Mueller did was dryly read a prepared statement in which he clarified his stance on the obstruction charge and made it clear that he wasn’t going to provide any more information than what is in the report. How is that a “parting shot”? And he hardly “raised plenty of questions” that are related to the remaining issues – is Trump guilty of obstruction of justice, and should he be impeached because of that?
    None of this indemnifies Mueller or the FBI. It’s possible some have acted badly. But Mueller and those in the FBI leadership that I have seen interviewed seem like honorable people to me. Certainly they are entitled to the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their character. And until something is uncovered that impugns that character, I intend to continue to give them that benefit of the doubt. And I think that it is only right that others do the same thing.

  7. Mr Lanier seems to have a different point of view than does Ms Atkisson. Dare I suggest this is evidence for cognitive dissonance in the room? The terms “conflate” and also, “smearing” Mueller’s rep, are both interesting choices– insofar that my observation from the cheaper seats is that after two years and close to $40 million spent on an erroneous allegation of Russian collusion–the real story seems to be shoddy journalistic actions which fed the obfuscation of facts pertaining to the Steele Dossier. Ms Atkisson later wrote about how any individual accused of a murder they didn’t commit might seem to obstruct the investigation process at hand(under a microscope in the public limelight mind you in Trump’s case) if they stated that they didn’t commit any murder–nor did they obstruct any investigation. Both of which are true insofar that the President ponied up with what was requested of him. I believe it is a waste of time to demonize the Left or the Right as long as a legitimate and authentic investigation process is followed when political adversaries are obviously at odds. The conflicts of interest pertaining to the Russiagate collusion-exercise-in futility are obvious to such degree that it is absurd not to question who and to what end certain members of the intelligence community either failed to do their job, or were sloppy with regard to the handling of information, and also sloppy in terms of fact-checking sources for collusion with special interests(particularly during the presidential election when so much money is at stake.)
    Obviously, the Donna Brazille revelations pertaining to HRC’s commandeering of the DNC seem more in accord with covert actions to subvert a democratic process than was the phony Russiagate circus TV news viewers had to endure for two years. As Gore Vidal observed, however: “United States of Amnesia.”

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