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EDITORIAL: Disjointed Mueller testimony should end talk of impeachment

Democrats built up Robert Mueller as the knight in shining armor who would finally take down President Donald Trump. He came off more like an exhausted old man in need of a nap.

Yesterday, the former special counsel testified before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees. Democrats built up the hearings as a chance for the public finally to learn the truth about what Mr. Mueller uncovered during his two-year, $30 million investigation.

It didn’t go as they hoped — substantively or politically.

Democrats, like House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., cultivated the bizarre notion that Mr. Mueller’s conclusions were uncertain. They contended that Attorney General William Barr had misrepresented them at the behest of the Trump administration.

Nope. The findings Mr. Mueller presented to Congress were the exact ones Mr. Barr made public months ago by releasing Mr. Mueller’s 448-page report.

In his opening statement, Mueller noted that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. But he said his team didn’t establish that then-candidate Trump or his campaign conspired with the Russian government. That should be the final nail in the coffin for the erroneous collusion narrative. Mr. Mueller then referenced the evidence that Mr. Trump wanted to undermine his investigation. Mr. Trump’s staff largely ignored the president’s directives or persuaded him to reverse course.

Mr. Mueller declined to make a decision on if there was enough evidence to charge Mr. Trump with obstruction. He punted the decision to Mr. Barr, who said there wasn’t enough proof to do so. In a justice system where people are “innocent until proven guilty,” Mr. Trump is right to claim victory, even though some of his reported actions Wednesday reflect poorly on his integrity. No one likes a sore winner.

With nothing new of substance to say, the hearing was largely about the theatrics. In that arena, Mr. Mueller stumbled repeatedly.

He appeared tired and overwhelmed. He frequently asked committee members to repeat questions. He declined to answer or deflected questions 198 times, according to a tally from NBC News. He fumbled through questions about the report itself.

David Axelrod, former chief strategist for Barack Obama, labeled it “very, very painful.”

“Much as I hate to say it, this morning’s hearing was a disaster,” tweeted Laurence Tribe, a Harvard Law professor who released a book on impeachment last year.

Democrats hoped Mr. Mueller’s testimony would spark an outcry for impeachment. Instead, his lethargic, bumbling performance doused the idea with cold water.

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