At Last, Robert Mueller Will Testify Before Congress

There’s a scene in the film “Goodfellas” where the main character, Henry Hill, explains the economic ethos of his compatriots: “Business bad? F–k you, pay me. Oh, you had a fire? F–k you, pay me. Place got hit by lightning, huh? F–k you, pay me.”

I’ve been muttering something similar at Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and the House Democratic committee chairs since Robert Mueller released his Russian election interference report on April 18: “Nervous about the election? F–k you, subpoena Mueller. Oh, not enough support in the polls for impeachment? F–k you, subpoena Mueller. Capitol dome flew into space, huh? F–k you, subpoena Mueller.” Millions of other Americans have, no doubt, been mumbling some version of the same.

Maybe someone was listening.

“Robert S. Mueller III, the former special counsel, has agreed to testify in public before Congress next month about his investigation into Russia’s election interference and possible obstruction of justice by President Trump,” reported The New York Times last night. “Coming nearly three months after the release of Mr. Mueller’s report, two back-to-back hearings on July 17 before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees promise to be among the most closely watched spectacles of Mr. Trump’s presidency. They have the power to potentially reshape the political landscape around his re-election campaign and a possible impeachment inquiry by the Democrat-controlled House.”

House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-New York) and House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California) released a joint statement announcing the hearings: “Americans have demanded to hear directly from the Special Counsel so they can understand what he and his team examined, uncovered, and determined about Russia’s attack on our democracy, the Trump campaign’s acceptance and use of that help, and President Trump and his associates’ obstruction of the investigation into that attack. We look forward to hearing his testimony, as do all Americans.”

Additionally, Chairman Schiff also confirmed to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that members of Mueller’s investigative staff will testify in a closed-door session. While these closed-door deals are becoming truly tiresome, it’s a safe bet Mueller’s crew won’t pull a Hope Hicks and refuse to answer anything of substance.

Recall that it was a bunch of Mueller investigators who raised hell after Attorney General William Barr released his bucket-o-whitewash “summary” letter which ultimately served to defenestrate whatever was left of his reputation. Behind the closed doors, I’m mortally sure the committee members are going to get a whopping earful when those investigators take their seats.

Word of the hearings has percolated into Trump’s brain, with predictable results. “Robert Mueller terminated their text messages,” he stormed to the Fox Business Network. “He terminated them. They’re gone. Robert Mueller, they worked for him; the two lovers were together, and they had texts back and forth. Mueller terminated them illegally. He terminated all of the stuff between Strzok and Page.”

If you are struggling to translate, please don’t fret. It wasn’t supposed to make sense. It was supposed to make noise.

Of course, pessimism at this point is entirely understandable. If Robert Mueller shows up on July 17 and pulls his Sam the Eagle From the Muppet Show routine, if he steadfastly refuses to rock the insider’s-club boat like the loyal Republican bureaucrat he is, we will all be the worse for it. We should all prepare for that eventuality, because everything else has wound up being a disappointment, and July 17 may well turn out to be more of the same.

If, however, Mueller steps up and parks it deep, if he lets a dollop of outrage seep through the veneer of distant professionalism he has cultivated his entire career — or if he simply tells the unmanipulated truth — the game will change before the echo fades. Speaker Pelosi and the House Democratic leadership, who think impeachment is too radical even to rein in a radically lawless president and who already have enough evidence in hand to begin an official inquiry, will find themselves fresh out of excuses and left with but one choice.

However you slice it, the July 17 hearing is once-in-a-generation appointment television. I’ll be watching. If you can’t or won’t, I’ll let you know how it goes.