Can somebody explain to me what all the fuss is about Robert Mueller bringing an aide with him when he testifies before Congress on Wednesday, when, if I recall correctly, the Mueller report concluded that there was “no collusion” and “full exoneration?” Just askin’. Because for a man with nothing to fear, Donald Trump sure seems agitated and he’s not the only one.


Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the Intelligence Committee, cautioned that Mueller — not Zebley — would be answering lawmakers’ questions.

“Our intention is that Mueller do the testifying and not have someone else do it for him,” Schiff said. “Now, there may be questions that one of his team is better situated to answer of a technical nature. But we don’t want a hearing with Bob Mueller converted to a hearing with someone else.”

Both Zebley and James Quarles, another Mueller deputy, initially were expected to testify before the Judiciary and Intelligence committees behind closed doors, but those sessions were called off amid opposition from Attorney General William Barr.

Barr has said that Mueller’s deputies should not testify, and he suggested that the Justice Department would move to block them from appearing if the committees issued subpoenas to compel their testimony. It is unclear whether the Justice Department will try to disrupt Wednesday’s arrangement.

Again, why all this protest, if “there’s no there, there,” as Trump recently declared on Twitter, while claiming that he’d read the entire Mueller report — which if true, would constitute the biggest intellectual exercise of Trump’s entire life, reading 400 plus pages of material.

Now, in the real world, since the Deputy Special Counsel, Zebley, knows about the investigation in detail, he might be able to actually speed things up and provide fine points on key issues, that might otherwise be missed. However, that is apparently exactly what is feared by the Republicans, that Zebley might answer a question that Mueller doesn’t, or elaborate on some point in the report. Bill Barr’s threatening DOJ letter made it very clear that he doesn’t want Mueller to explain anything outside of what is already in writing in the 400 page report, because anything not in writing is “protected by executive privilege.” So, what’s going to happen?

[Jerry] Nadler said on Tuesday that Democratic lawmakers have “been operating under the assumption that he’ll do essentially what he said — he’ll stay more or less within the bounds of the report.” But the chairman also said Mueller “does not have to comply” with the Justice Department directives.

“He doesn’t work for them,” Nadler said, “and that letter asks things that are beyond the power of the agency to ask even if he still worked for them.”

Despite the Justice Department’s letter to Mueller, it is unlikely the department will insist on having a lawyer in the room during Mueller’s testimony to lodge objections to certain questions — essentially relying on Mueller to self-police his remarks. Mueller is known to strictly adhere to Justice Department guidelines, and Democrats do not expect him to deviate from that practice,

Mueller has made it clear he won’t color outside the lines of his report. And that might work out just fine. Vanity Fair:

But even if Mueller sticks to the findings in the report, he won’t necessarily be doing Trump or Barr any favors. The chief criticism of Barr’s handling of the Mueller investigation is that he misrepresented the report to make the president look better, thereby setting the narrative. Simply by restating the facts as laid out in his report, many of which would appear to contradict Barr’s summary, Mueller’s testimony may be one of the biggest political events of the year. Democrats hoping to launch an impeachment inquiry against Trump believe that just hearing Mueller’s findings, as outlined in the report, may be enough to shift public support behind them.

Bear in mind the 200 contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russia. That’s a fact straight out of the report. If Mueller just says what’s there, the Mueller report coming from the horse’s mouth, rather than being reinterpreted and skewed by Bill Barr, could make a world of difference in how the report is perceived. In any event, the countdown clocks are running and we’re going to see what we’re going to see soon enough.


Help keep the site running, consider supporting.


  1. Zebley has a close history with Mueller. Back when the latter was FBI director, the former was his chief of staff. Before that, Zebley worked counter terrorism in the Bureau for (I believe) 7 years during the post-9/11 period. Him being around with Mueller makes Trump and Barr plenty nervous. Nor do I think this last-minute request wasn’t prearranged to catch Trump and Co off-guard.

    • What appeals to me is the fact that with Zebley appearing in Congress, other aides/authors of the Mueller report can now appear. I hope that’s the proper interpretation of Zebley’s appearing Wednesday, in any event.

  2. It seems that Mueller’s wanting Zebley at the table with him AND allowed to answer questions is something that’s been being negotiated with both committees for at least a couple of weeks now. IOW while it’s a surprise to the public it’s not a surprise to the committees including the GOP side. I think the only real question is whether Zebley would be sworn in and allowed to directly answer any questions and/or provide clarification or cite references to specific parts of the report & supporting evidence.

    Mueller is as buttoned-down and by-the-book as they come and despite what Barr has done as a true institutionalist (a product of a now defunct time which to my chagrin Mueller refuses to acknowledge) Mueller’s default position will be to adhere to long-standing DOJ policy – a sort of regardless of Barr and other’s trashing the rules “I’m better than that.” Someone should point out to him how adhering to norms/customs and not dignifying assaults on them worked out for John Kerry when he got Swift Boated in 2004. And what’s happened to Mueller is to me a more sophisticated form of Swift Boating. Anyway I think he sent his request to DOJ to give him legal cover to avoid what he considers the indignity and/or discomfort of trashing Bill Barr with whom he’s long had a cordial working relationship. Mueller cares about his legacy and appears to believe it hasn’t already been tarnished by the Trump administration including and especially Barr. To my way of thinking the only way he can reclaim it is to, in his own measured way tell the country on live TV that Barr is full of shit and has dumped a huge load over him and his (and his team’s) work. But that’s not Mueller’s style. He is locked into the old communications world and just doesn’t “get” that the rules have changed.

    Yes, he’s still got the gravitas to be devastating to Trump by simply confirming sections of the report if our own Congress Critters will check their egos and let Mueller do most of the talking, or simply give a firm yes to well constructed (and damaging to Trump and Barr too) questions. What he never wanted or intended to do was flat out call out Barr and his bullshit. And the GOP wasn’t happy but they could live with that. Why they are I believe freaking the fuck out tonight is that Zebley might actually answer some of the “process” questions Mueller won’t. Having the guy present for Mueller to consult with was one thing, but I THINK the reason Mueller wanted him sworn in as a witness was so that Zebley could say the things Mueller can’t bring himself to do.

    Barr is shitting bricks and probably screaming into the phone at every judge on the DC circuit to enjoin Zebley from saying a single word on TV, or behind closed doors for that matter. It’s going to be an interesting morning and you can bet the farm the GOP will eat up as much time as they can with objections to Zebley’s being there and if he actually tries to say a single word of testimony it will make Democratic procedural objections in some recent Senate hearings look like love fests.

    Btw, I’m looking forward to “Gym” Jordan trying to do his little act of semi lunging from his chair at witnesses to try and intimidate them. The look on Mueller’s face when Jordan pulls that shit should be priceless.

    • Schiff did say that it would be Mueller testifying, not Zebley, but as I said, I think that Zebley, familiar with the fine points, might make a substantial contribution to the proceedings.

    • My mom, by contrast, is getting up early, early in the morning (which, given that she’s on Mountain Time, is early indeed) so she doesn’t miss a thing. I halfway expect her to live blog the whole proceedings via text to me.

    • I turn it on then turn it off when I feel my gut falling to the floor or my neck / shoulders start to stiffen up. Matt Gaetz – off. Jim Jordan – off. See the pix? I did listen to a little of Devin Nunes – he wants the DNI position and boy did he put the bullshit on the table in his opening statement. The repugnants have said enough to allow 45 to run with it. They will continue the “hoax” “witch hunt” “deep state” from now on. Me……if the Dems do NOT start in impeachment inquiry then this is all for naught.

  3. ” why all this protest, if “there’s no there, there,” as Trump recently declared on Twitter”
    Because, if they did something like this, it would be for some ulterior motive.
    Because, if they did something like this, they would be using it as an opportunity to bring in new lies or bolster old ones.
    Because they don’ understand that people even exist who don’t deal in lies and dirty tricks.
    In other words, projection.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

The maximum upload file size: 128 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video, document, spreadsheet, interactive, text, archive, code, other. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here