Former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara said Republicans are attempting a “character assassination” of former special counsel Robert Mueller at his Wednesday congressional hearings.
“What’s going on here, you know, is another dimension of a character assassination that’s been going on for two years now, and they have another front that they’re opening up,” Bharara, a CNN senior legal analyst, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.
Bharara said Republicans are “trashing” a “military hero,” and noted Mueller is a longtime Republican who was nominated to be director of the FBI by President George W. Bush.
The former US attorney’s comments came after Mueller testified at one of the most highly anticipated hearings of the Trump presidency. Democrats are hoping the hearing will bring the special counsel’s report to life for the American public, but Mueller has so far resisted inquiries that would lead him to offer responses that go beyond what’s stated in his report.
The former FBI director’s testimony has been notably shakier than his previous appearances on Capitol Hill, as many of his responses were halting and wobbly and his voice has been stilted at times.
In his appearance before the House Judiciary Committee, when Mueller was asked a question “that was logical and sensible and was grounded in reality, and that was asked at a reasonable pace, he knew exactly what was going on and he answered clearly and concisely,” Bharara said.
He said “some folks” were “rattling things off at him, word salads” and Mueller “didn’t immediately understand what was being asked.” He said “a lot of people would be in that position.”
“People have great moments and less great moments, no matter how old you are, how young you are,” Bharara said.
Earlier Wednesday, Bharara said Mueller’s “yes or no” answers at his testimony are atypical for witnesses.
“I don’t believe I have yet heard Bob Mueller give any kind of narrative answer that goes more than one sentence. He’ll either answer yes or no or say I refer you to the report. That’s it,” Bharara said.
The former US attorney said House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler accomplished in the opening round what the Democrats set out to do with Mueller’s appearance before the committee.
“Watching the testimony I graded him an ‘A.’ Maybe he deserved an ‘A-plus’,” Bharara said of Nadler.
“Whether it’s, you know, some inability or it’s a strategy they both point to the same direction,” Bharara said. “And are good for Robert Mueller who doesn’t want to say much.”
Mueller, the former special counsel and former FBI director, is facing lawmakers at two separate congressional hearings on Wednesday — one with the House Judiciary Committee and another with the House Intelligence Committee. Earlier this year, Mueller delivered his 448-page report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election to the Justice Department after conducting an investigation for nearly two years.
The report detailed numerous cases in which President Donald Trump asked his aides to take actions that may have obstructed Mueller’s investigation, but stated they were unsuccessful because the aides refused his orders.