Robert Mueller’s testimony before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees provided yet further proof that the entire special counsel investigation was a political witch hunt. While Democrats succeeded in eliciting affirmative responses from Mueller to their dramatic reading of the special counsel report at Wednesday’s prosecution of President Trump in absentia, it was Mueller’s ignorance when queried about Fusion GPS that exposed both the proceedings and the special counsel probe as a sham.
In what he surely saw as an introductory question, Rep. Steven Chabot asked Mueller to confirm that the name of the firm that produced the Christopher Steele dossier was Fusion. “I’m not familiar with that,” the former special counsel responded. Taken aback by Mueller’s ignorance, Chabot stressed, “It’s not a trick question,” before attempting to ask Mueller about Fusion GPS and the Steele dossier.
“This is outside my purview,” Mueller testified. How is that even possible?
In his opening statement, Mueller stressed that he agreed to serve as special counsel because he thought “it was of paramount interest to the nation to determine whether a foreign adversary had interfered in the presidential election.” “The order appointing me as special counsel directed our office to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election,” Mueller continued.
Yet here he was, telling Congress that Fusion GPS and the Steele dossier were outside of his “purview.” But the Steele dossier built the entire case of Russia collusion. It justified the four Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act surveillance orders on former Trump adviser Carter Page. It detailed supposed connections between Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen and the Kremlin. Had anyone truly believed there was collusion between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia, they would have pulled every thread in the Steele dossier to see if something stuck.
Rep. Matt Gaetz knew this, and said to Mueller:
No, it is exactly your purview, Director Mueller. And here’s why. Only one or two things is possible. Either Steele made this whole thing up and there were never any Russians telling him of this vast criminal conspiracy that you didn’t find. Or Russians lied to Steele. Now, if Russians were lying to Steele to undermine our confidence in our duly elected president, that would seem to be precisely in your purview because in your opening you stated that the organizing principle was to fully and thoroughly investigate Russia’s interference. But you weren’t interested in whether Russians were interfering through Christopher Steele. And if Steele was lying, then you should have charged him with lying. But you say nothing about that in your report.
But Mueller persisted: “It’s not my purview. Others are investigating what you address. . . . The Department of Justice and the FBI should be responsive to questions on this particular issues.”
In this exchange it is unclear whether Mueller meant he was refusing to discuss the special counsel’s investigation into Fusion and the Steele dossier, or whether he meant his team never probed the veracity of the Russia collusion detailed by the former MI6 spy Steele. If the former, and the DOJ directed Mueller to remain silent, that is one thing. But if the latter, that is an entirely different can of caviar.
Every indication from Muller’s testimony on Wednesday suggests the special counsel never bothered to look at the underlying allegations of collusion in the Steele dossier. Yes, Mueller opened by explaining there were certain areas of public interest on which he will not be able to answer questions, including “the opening of the FBI’s Russia investigation, which occurred months before my appointment, or matters related to the so-called ‘Steele dossier.’” But throughout his testimony, Mueller used “purview” to mean the scope of the special counsel investigation.
That Mueller had no knowledge of Fusion GPS seems to cement the conclusion that the supposedly wide-ranging, thorough investigation Mueller oversaw over Russia interference in the 2016 election ignored what was potentially the most significant interference that took place: Russia feeding Steele, the Democratic National Committee, and in turn the U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and federal surveillance courts, fake intel allowing for spying on a political campaign.
Mueller’s bafflement over the name Fusion gave the game away, but that example was far from isolated. Mueller’s ignorance, hedging, and silence in response to questions posed to him over five-plus hours of questioning confirm the SpyGate scandal.