Darrell Issa: Democrats can delay Mueller hearings, but it won’t help

We have our first big reveal of the highly anticipated Robert Mueller testimony before the House of Representatives. And like so many summer flops, the previews are a lot more interesting than the full show.

After rushing to judgment, sprinting to subpoena and naming a time and place for Mueller to deliver the goods, the Democrats clearly couldn’t decide what to ask, didn't know what embarrassing details any answers might reveal, and weren't ready to do any of this in public. So they hit pause and gave themselves a week to figure it out. It won't be long enough.

Here's why.

DEAL STRUCK FOR MUELLER TO APPEAR, GIVE EXTENDED TESTIMONY BEFORE CONGRESS ON JULY 24

The processes and personalities that are involved in conducting a Congressional hearing may look organized on live television. Behind the scenes, however, it is a far more complicated and intense atmosphere.

When the majority has the momentum, built from information, evidence and eyewitness account, the hearing day can’t come soon enough. When those advantages are absent, there’s never enough time to bring it all together.

From the moment that Attorney General William Barr accurately summarized the baseline findings of Mueller and his team – and revealed that Russian collusion was a delusion all along – Washington’s conspiracy caucus has cast about for a way to keep on offense, even as their hopes for a summer of scandal crumbled and their multi-year narrative of Russian collusion collapsed.

Putting aside the fact this wasn’t right, it was never going to work: It wasn’t an investigation of the cause of a crime, it was an investigation in search of a crime. 

It isn’t more time that’s needed to set this back on track for the Democrats. It’s more truth. The problem is, the more we have come to learn about the questionable-to-corrupt practices of the DOJ, FBI and Obama officials in both, the more true it appears that the president was comprehensively targeted and the American public was systematically deceived.

This included very apparent abuses of the FISA system, leaked surveillance tapes to the media and numerous agents and personnel hell-bent to stop Donald Trump from becoming president, and, having failed that, to cripple his new administration before it even began.

When that didn’t work, the heaviest of artillery was deployed: Former FBI Director and longtime Washington figure Robert Mueller was named special prosecutor and given a massive budget, dozens of lawyers, the sweeping powers of federal law enforcement, and all the time he would need.

Many of my former Democrat colleagues were practically salivating at the prospect of the crimes Mueller would allege and the range of people he would go after. The most seasoned were intrigued by that, to be sure, but saw the Mueller move for what it really was: a path to presidential impeachment.

Putting aside the fact this wasn’t right, it was never going to work: It wasn’t an investigation of the cause of a crime, it was an investigation in search of a crime.

When the fundamental assumption of collusion turned out not just to be unfounded but preposterous, Mueller had one – and only one – opportunity to achieve some public good for his work: he should have declared months ago that there was zero evidence the president or his campaign conspired with Russian interests and proceeded to wrap up what was left of his work. That he did not do that will permanently mar his long career of public service and brought us to this very unwelcome point.

In the final analysis, Congressional hearings and oversight investigations are commonly framed among three central questions: What happened? Why did it happen? How can it be prevented from happening again? These queries are the foundation of how oversight is done right.

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But none of that will be present in the Judiciary Committee hearings chaired by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., In the most backward of logic, he and his colleagues declared President Trump guilty years ago and have been on the hunt ever since for the proof. Finding none and refusing to admit it, they are reduced to dragging a clearly reluctant Mueller into the limelight, then postponing it all when they weren’t ready for prime time.

The irony is there for all to see: A year ago, the Democrats couldn’t wait to hold hearings. Now, they don’t know what to ask or when to start. Another week won’t fix it.