For Democrats, Mueller's Pointless Testimony Was Just Politics as Usual | Opinion

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller, the man tasked with leading the investigation into alleged collusion between the 2016 Trump presidential campaign and the Russians, testified Wednesday before two congressional committees.

For the folks who've been advocating for President Donald Trump's impeachment, things did not go as they hoped. Mueller did not hand them a smoking gun. He stuck to the report, let it stand as his testimony, and left Democrats to keep fishing for some nugget allegedly hidden by Attorney General William Barr.

The closest they came to something big was Mueller's affirmation in front of the House Judiciary Committee that Trump could indeed be indicted after leaving the White House, after a Justice Department ruling from the 1970s that decided a sitting president cannot be indicted no longer applies.

Some lawmakers in Congress reacted to Mueller's affirmation as big news. It wasn't—and for reasons the special prosecutor later amplified when he corrected his remarks later in the day at the second hearing in front of the House Intelligence Committee.

Saying Trump could be subject to indictment when he leaves office, which is certainly correct, is like saying Trump could dye his hair purple, move to South Beach and live out the rest of his life under the name "Martha." He could—but he probably won't.

Several things are clear. The Russians did try to interfere in the election. They used social media to circulate propaganda, hacked our elections systems and did other deplorable things—but only in the way Captain Louis Renault did in Casablanca as he shut down Rick's Café American because of illegal gambling on the grounds while someone is trying to hand him his winnings.

The U.S. government should do something to stop such insidious interference, perhaps in cooperation with Big Tech, but to pretend "we're shocked, shocked" to find such things going on is disingenuous.

No one has shown that any of the Russians' efforts led to a single vote being changed, before or after it was cast. There are no credible studies showing their interference affected the outcome of the 2016 election. To continue to infer it did undermines the American voters' confidence the electoral process and is destructive to democracy.

The Democrats' reaction to Mueller's appearance, which gave every appearance of having been scripted long before he entered the building, is that this whole business has not been "a witch hunt," as the president and others have contended.

Actually, it's been far worse. From conception through execution, the investigation and the intense media campaign waged in support of it were intended to bring down a president.

The second half of Mueller's report has been used by Democrats and some Republicans to justify claims the president obstructed or attempted to obstruct the investigation. It has been talked about as a road map for criminal prosecution not acted upon solely because of the previously mentioned Justice Department policy regarding the indictment of a sitting president.

Mueller made it clear in his afternoon testimony this was not the case. It's true he didn't say, as some are demanding to hear, that Trump "didn't do it," but that's not his job. Prosecutors don't exonerate people. They indict them—and Mueller apparently doesn't think (and neither does Barr) the evidence gathered is strong enough to sustain an indictment. That's conclusive—or should be.

The president may believe the "witch hunt" is over. Not by a long shot. Democratic congressional leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler will continue to temporize and plod through the process, pretending they are methodical and judicious when all they are doing is looking for the optimum time to spring the trap.

Robert Mueller Testimony
Former special counsel Robert Mueller testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on July 24 in Washington, D.C. Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Mueller's appearance didn't give them the "gotcha" footage they needed to bury Trump. They'll keep pushing because they must: Impeachment advocates such as Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Representative Ilhan Omar, Senator Bernie Sanders and other far-left lawmakers won't let them stop. They continue to drop words like "collusion," which Mueller says did not happen, and "obstruction" because they are looking for a way to short-circuit the process in 2020. They don't want a campaign waged on the relative merits of the different party platforms but one that is simply a referendum on Trump.

The Democrats are in permanent campaign mode. To them, this is about winning, not justice, and they're playing for keeps. Don't be surprised if someone else in Congress introduces articles of impeachment a bit more substantial than the ones just voted down. They're not about to stop.

Newsweek contributing editor Peter Roff has written extensively about politics and the American experience for U.S. News and World Report, United Press International, and other publications. He can be reached by email at Follow him on Twitter @PeterRoff.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.