Maggie Haberman Says ‘One Big Piece of News’ Mueller Made Was Supposed Walk-Back (Not That Trump Lied Under Oath)
New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman revealed what she considers “the one big piece of news that [Robert Mueller] made” at Wednesday’s congressional hearings, and it was something other than the fact that Mueller implicated President Donald Trump as a potential perjurer.
On Tuesday’s edition of CNN’s Inside Politics, Haberman joined other journalists in critiquing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s “stilted and halting” delivery at Wednesday’s House Judiciary and Intelligence Committee hearings, and declared that Mueller only made one “big piece of news” itself a dubious claim given her own newspaper’s two-clause front page headline.
“The one big piece of news he made, as you noted earlier, he walked back later,” Haberman said, adding “That’s not insignificant.”
She went on to say that “There were some interesting details along the way,” but named only one such detail, which was Mueller debunking Trump’s oft-told lie that Mueller had sought the FBI director post after Trump’s firing of James Comey.
Haberman also pushed back against people who “were very unhappy with the media for suggesting this might not be a durable news story going forward” by noting that “we have covered Mueller for two years.”
She had fended off the same criticism Wednesday for suggesting that Mueller’s testimony would be forgotten by the end of the day.
The “walk-back” to which Haberman refers is, itself, a generous interpretation of events. During his appearance before the Judiciary Committee, Mueller was asked by Rep. Ted Lieu “The reason again that you did not indict Donald Trump is because of the OLC opinion stating that you cannot indict a sitting president, correct?” Lieu asked in that exchange.
“That is correct,” Mueller answered.
But then, in his opening statement to the Intel Committee, Mueller said “I want to go back to one thing that was said this morning by Mr. Lieu who said ‘You didn’t charge the president because of the OLC opinion.’ That is not the correct way to say it. As we say in the report, and as I said at the opening, we did not reach a determination as to whether the president committed a crime.”
What the Mueller report actually says is that they did not even try to reach a determination because of the OLC memo, which is not really a big piece of news.
This is in the eye of the beholder, but what could be construed as a big piece of news is the fact that elsewhere in the Judiciary Committee hearing, under questioning from a Republican, Mueller appeared to agree that it was his personal belief that Trump had committed the crime of obstruction of justice, in an exchange that he did not later “walk back.”
Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) asked Mueller a series of questions about that OLC memo, among them one in which he asked could you charge the president with a crime after he left office?” to which Mueller replied “Yes.”
Then Buck said “You believe that he committed — you could charge the president of the United States with obstruction of justice after he left office.”
“Yes,” Mueller replied.
Maybe Mueller didn’t hear the first part of the sentence, or maybe assumed Buck was correcting himself rather than adding to the question, and maybe some Democrat on the committee should have noticed and followed up, but Mueller’s “yes” — never walked back — is big-ish news, at the very least.
But it is hard to imagine bigger news than Mueller implicating Trump in the crime of perjury by telling Congress that Trump’s written answers, given under oath, were not truthful and were contradicted by evidence that his investigation had gathered.
Almost as big — and equally overlooked — is the fact that Mueller agreed, under questioning from Lieu and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, that Trump had satisfied two of the three elements of criminal obstruction of justice. And under questioning from Jeffries, Mueller said it was not “out of the ballpark” to say that Trump had satisfied all three elements.
That third element — corrupt intent — is at least hinted at in the Mueller report, as Jeffries explained, and could have been further evaluated had Trump not refused to be interviewed under oath by Mueller. It could also be evaluated if Trump were to testify under oath at some future proceeding.
Haberman may bristle at the idea that she has any influence on how the public views the Mueller hearings, but by reporting that there was only one “big piece of news” and ignoring hugely consequential news in her analysis, she depressingly confirms it.
Watch Haberman above, via CNN.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.