“Just the facts, ma’am,” Detective Joe Friday was known for telling witnesses in the 1960s television series Dragnet. Trivia buffs point out that actor Jack Webb’s character never used those precise words, but he did focus like a laser beam on getting the facts when interrogating witnesses.
So should the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees when they question Robert Mueller on Wednesday. There should be no softball, open-ended questions by Democrats designed to invite baseless speculation by Mueller against President Trump.
Mueller reportedly requested that the Department of Justice send him a cautionary letter of instructions to limit the scope of testimony. The letter emphasized the longstanding policy of the Justice Department not to discuss behavior by persons who have not been charged with a crime.
That means Mueller should not be discussing President Donald Trump, who has not been charged with any crime. Mueller would be violating the Justice Department policy if he disparages President Trump.
The Justice Department told Mueller that it “generally does not permit prosecutors such as you to appear and testify before Congress regarding their investigative and prosecutorial activity.”
This does not mean that Mueller cannot answer any questions. There are multiple mysteries about his fruitless boondoggle which Mueller should address, and about which congressmen should thoroughly interrogate him.
The first question Mueller should answer is how much taxpayer money he wasted on his multiyear investigation into non-existent crimes. Then he should be required to estimate how much collateral damage he imposed on others in the course of his rampage.
A recent report says that Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, who spent decades serving our Nation in the Army, incurred at least $4.6 million in legal fees due to Mueller’s investigation. Gen. Flynn was the victim of an unusual sting operation whereby the since-discredited Peter Strzok oversaw the interrogation of Flynn about the contents of a phone call about which Strzok had access to a secret recording of what was said.
Next, Mueller should be asked about a report that his liberal deputy, the overzealous Andrew Weissmann, attempted to cut a deal with a notorious Ukrainian oligarch, Dmytro Firtash, if the Ukrainian would provide some dirt about Trump. If Mueller pretends not to know the details about that, then there should be vigorous follow-up questioning because surely he knew what his deputy was doing.
Mueller should also be asked about reports that his immediate supervisor, Rod Rosenstein, considered an attempt to remove Trump from power based on the 25th Amendment. That amendment, which provides for a scenario in which the president loses his mental capacity, obviously has no relevance to the current administration.
Then questions should be asked about why Mueller, with much fanfare, indicted foreigners outside of the jurisdiction of the United States. Why did Mueller waste time and money making accusations against defendants who would never receive due process to exonerate themselves here?
Attorney General William Barr, in a letter he publicly released on March 24, observed (on behalf of himself and Rod Rosenstein) that Mueller “identifies no actions that, in our judgment, constitute obstructive conduct” by the president. Democrats have falsely called this statement misleading even though it is exactly correct.
Mueller himself should be asked repeatedly about Barr’s letter. Why did Mueller allow the media to push for weeks the false narrative that he was preparing a collusion or obstruction case against Trump?
Next there is the unexplained delay in Mueller waiting until after the 2018 midterm elections to exonerate Trump. Mueller should be asked why he did not wrap up his investigation in an expeditious manner.
Mueller has accused Russians of manipulating the 2016 presidential election, but why did Mueller himself manipulate the 2018 midterm elections by allowing false media reports about Trump to persist? Why didn’t he release his findings earlier to prevent voters from being misled by the false accusations against Trump?
Mueller should be asked about his bizarre statement on May 29 that “If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.” Mueller should explain why he acted contrary to the Department of Justice policy not to comment about people who are not charged with crimes.
Mueller stated publicly that the Russians who were indicted should be considered innocent until proven guilty, and there will be no trial to establish any guilt. Isn’t the president also worth the same presumption of innocence until proven guilty?
In Dragnet, one of the most popular law enforcement television dramas ever, Sergeant Joe Friday was solving violent crimes that happened, rather than searching for non-existent crimes. If it was so important to stick to the facts in Hollywood, it is even more important to stick to the facts when Democrats want to smear our president over fictitious crimes.
John and Andy Schlafly are sons of Phyllis Schlafly (1924-2016) and lead the continuing Phyllis Schlafly Eagles organizations with writing and policy work.