Howie Kurtz: Mueller’s testimony a debacle for pro-impeachment Dems

Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller did not deliver the kind of performance pro-impeachment progressive Democrats hoped he would be yesterday, host of “Media Buzz” Howard Kurtz said Thursday.

“And, my expectations were low!” he exclaimed to anchor Jon Scott. “Look, the way that Bob Mueller struggled through these hearings -- in part because he didn’t want to answer the questions, in part because he had difficulty answering some of the questions -- was frustrating for both sides.”

Appearing on “America’s Newsroom,” Kurtz told Scott that the coverage was particularly a “debacle” for Democrats who were banking on Mueller’s public testimony “somehow magically transforming public opinion about the president’s culpability.”

Echoing his op-ed on FoxNews.com, Kurtz told Scott, “If this was the movie version, for those who didn’t read the book -- meaning the report -- Mueller was a terrible leading man. And, it wasn’t just optics -- not just that he was a shaky witness, but he had very little to say that was new.”

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“Which, of course, was his intention from the start,” Kurtz explained. Mueller had previously warned that his congressional testimony would not deviate from what was revealed in the 448-page report released this spring. The Department of Justice (DOJ) had also advised him to stay within those confines.

However, despite sticking largely to the report, Mueller's appearance was not well received by many.

The Washington Post labeled it a “halting, faltering performance.” The New York Times said his “labored performance" was a “departure from his once-fabled stamina.” Former Obama administration Chief Strategist David Axelrod tweeted that watching Mueller was, “very, very painful.” CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin scored it as a win for President Trump: “Look at who’s winning now, it certainly seems like Donald Trump is winning between the two of them.”

After approximately six hours of testimony, President Trump claimed victory. He strode triumphantly toward reporters on the White House lawn to declare it a “great day” for both him and the Republican Party. “The Democrats had nothing and now they have less than nothing and I think they're going to lose the 2020 election very big, including congressional seats, because of the path they chose,” he confidently stated.

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The president’s attorney Jay Sekulow wrote in a statement: “The American people understand that this issue is over. They also understand that the case is closed.”

But, a handful of others had a different take. Including some members of the media.

“I’ve been struck by how some opinion hosts on MSNBC have taken a word here, a phrase there, to say that he savaged the president. That he said the president could be indicted after he leaves office…Well, he answered that question hypothetically and he corrected it,” Kurtz said.

He also cited a front-page story in The New York Times that said Mueller as a special counsel “worked shorter hours, didn’t have as much stamina, didn’t lead many meetings,” and “at 74, isn’t the man he used to be.”

“My question is, if reporters covering the investigation knew this, why are we just hearing about it now?” he exclaimed. “Was it that they were wary of reporting such things while they still wanted access to his office, while he was still special counsel, while there was still the possibility of getting leaks?

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"So, now it’s like, ‘Well, we’ll tell you the fact that he’s slowed up a bit.’ As was painfully evident in that hearing.”

Republicans are calling for Democrats to move on. Democrats are re-calibrating ahead of 2020. Some are calling the 2020 election a final chance for Democrats to oust the president.