Former FBI director and special counsel Robert Mueller was summoned to Capitol Hill this morning to testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee and House Intelligence Committee about the findings from his report about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and whether the president or his campaign team was involved with any election meddling.
In May 2017, the former FBI director was appointed to lead the investigation by deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, a move which took place eight days after Trump fired then-FBI director James Comey, who had been leading this Trump-Russia investigation.
For information about each network’s coverage plans, click here.
During the first break in the morning session with the Judiciary Committee, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace proclaimed on-air that the hearing had already been a disaster for the Democratic party and for the reputation of Robert Mueller himself:
“Frankly…This has been a disaster for the Democrats and I think it has been a disaster for the reputation of Robert Mueller. He has seemed very uncertain with his brief. He doesn’t seem to know things that are in the report. He has been attacked a number of times and you would think that almost anybody else would have defended his own integrity and the integrity of the investigation, and over and over Mueller just sits silent and allows the attacks from the Republicans to sweep over him and says nothing. I think it does raise questions about the degree to which he actually was in charge and in control of this report because he doesn’t seem very much in control or in charge of what the final report was.”
In between sessions, Wallace seemed to walk back his use of the word “disaster” a bit, and said he had an e-mail exchange with a member of the Democratic committee staff after that comment was made, describing said exchange as “very professional.”
Here’s more analysis from Wallace:
During the same first break, CNN went to its panel. During the discussion, Jake Tapper took a shot at Fox News, saying some of the questions fired at Mueller by the Republican congressmen and women may “get some back slaps in the Fox green room.”
“Congressman [David] Ratcliffe making the point that it’s not standard procedure for a prosecutor to say I’m not exonerating this person even though I’m not charging them. Congressman Louie Gohmert accusing Mueller of perpetuating injustice. Congressman Jim Jordan asking a lot of questions about the mysterious Joseph Mifsud, who we have never really figured out what exactly his role in all of this is. But I don’t know that those are going to be headlines out of this report. I’m sure that they will — you know, merit some back slaps in the Fox green room, but I don’t know that that’s making any sort of larger point here.”
CNN legal analyst/former SDNY attorney Preet Bharara seemed to take issue with the sentiment expressed by Wallace and others that this ordeal has somehow tainted the reputation of Robert Mueller.
“When he was asked a question that was logical and sensible and was grounded in reality, and was asked at a reasonable pace, he knew exactly what was going on and answered clearly and concisely. There were some folks who were rattling things off with him, word salads, and he had to ask the question, repeat it, and he didn’t immediately understand what was being asked. I think a lot of people would be in that position.”
Bharara added: “What’s going on here is another dimension of character assassination that’s been going on for two years now.”
Over on CBS, Evening News anchor Norah O’Donnell at one point asked White House correspondent Paula Reid if she found anything especially unusual about Mueller’s answers:
“I would say the yes-no answers – that’s just good lawyering … but this appearance is certainly a contrast to his previous appearances before Congress,” responded Reid.
O’Donnell defended the press at one point during the coverage, while taking a shot at the president:
.@NorahODonnell: “When news organizations reported instances that he had directed Don McGahn, his WH counsel, to fire the special counsel — those were press reports at the time — the president derided those as ‘fake news’ and not true. It turns out the president was lying.” pic.twitter.com/GeVKj50Fep
— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) July 24, 2019
CBS White House correspondent Ben Tracy figured out that the president, unsurprisingly, was watching coverage of the testimony by noting the absence of a Marine at the West Wing.
“There is no Marine standing outside the West Wing, and that is because Pres. Trump is not in the Oval Office — that means the president is likely in his residence watching coverage this morning and we’ve essentially heard as much from WH correspondent @benstracy.” pic.twitter.com/obSwloWuqe
— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) July 24, 2019
After the conclusion of the first hearing, NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt, co-leading his network’s coverage with Savannah Guthrie, remarked, “Robert Mueller in the hot seat for about three and a half hours and I think it is accurate to call it a hot seat. It got heated at moments. If Democrats were looking for a pristine 10 to 15-second sound bite that made the point they want to make, it probably didn’t happen.”
Chuck Todd’s take on the morning session?
“On substance, Democrats got what they wanted. They got him to confirm that he didn’t make a charge because of the justice department memo. He confirmed that you can still indict him on these charges after he leaves office. And he seemed to confirm the idea that under any other circumstance, he likely would have filed some charges … on optics, this was a disaster.”
He later added: “I think today underscores just how much the House Democrats have struggled to do accountability with this White House.”
NBC’s chief justice correspondent Pete Williams also seemed to feel the Democrats aren’t getting what they want from the televised testimonies.
“Despite Robert Mueller being the strictly the prosecutor he knows full well what role the Democrats want him to play here,” said Williams. “He’s clearly reluctant to do it.”
Like Tapper, MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace seemed to feel as though questions posed by Republicans on the committees are meant to score points with Fox Newsers and the network’s prime time audience.
Wallace was especially direct at one point, stating:
“The Democrats considered this a fact-finding mission, the Republicans were all auditioning for the next weekend show on Fox News. [Florida Republican congressman] Matt Gaetz sounded like a lunatic auditioning to fill in for Sean Hannity, which I’ve heard him ask to do, which is sort of sad for him.”
Host of The Beat, Ari Melber joined MSNBC’s coverage from Washington:
“I’ll give you two big takeaways here. First on what Bob Mueller just if you take it altogether, the first half of this obstruction hearing, we heard from Bob Mueller. Basically the president is a liar. But he may not be a crook. And the president interfered, but he won’t say whether that’s impeachable or not. That was a tension we saw in a lot of the questions. We are seeing a careful Bob Mueller.”
NBC News national security analyst Jeremy Bash also contributed to MSNBC’s coverage, and thought the testimony was “boring.”
“I have to say that far from breathing life into the report, he kind of sucked the life out of the report. I thought he was boring, I thought in some cases he was sort of evasive. He didn’t want to explain or expand on his rationale. He seemed lost at times.”
George Stephanopoulos and David Muir are leading ABC News’ coverage of the testimony.
ABC News senior congressional correspondent Mary Bruce is part of the coverage, and remarked:
“The strategies were very clear straight out the gate. We saw Jerrold Nadler, his first line of questioning was to get Robert Mueller to say no his report did not exonerate the president. Very clearly we saw democrats trying to get through the ten incidents of possible obstruction, to underscore his report didn’t exonerate the president. The Republicans are trying to put to bed the issue of collusion, picking apart the report to highlight there was no criminal conspiracy. Then they were trying to discredit the investigation… The question is whether it’s resonating with the American people.”
ABC News chief justice correspondent Pierre Thomas sort of mirrored what Chuck Todd said over on NBC, that Mueller “is not a made for television person.”
He added: “You’re seeing that play out today. He’s extremely careful in how he approaches these types of things. He’s trying to stay within the report. He’s trying to defend the conclusions of the report by agreeing with the democrats where he sees fit. In terms of the attacks by the Republicans he’s perfectly content to ignore them. I think the thing he’s been most animated about is trying to make this point that what the Russians did in terms of attacking the election was sweeping and systematic.”
ABC News senior national correspondent Terry Moran went so far as to say that the time for impeachment has come and gone.
“I don’t think Nancy Pelosi is going to stand for her members bringing forth something that is obviously going to lose in the senate, lose in the American public,” he said.
Chris Christie, now a contributor for ABC News, said that the Democrats “have left a lot of opportunities on the table.”
He added: “We’re surprised that [Mueller] hasn’t pushed back on the integrity of his investigation. And his own integrity. The Democrats have to do something. We’re all dancing around impeachment here. The reason the democrats aren’t doing it is because the American people don’t want it by all the polls we’ve seen and they know the senate won’t convict him. They want to have their cake and eat it too.”