I have one immediate response to the long-awaited testimony from former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
It is that I believe impeachment of Donald Trump has been moved farther away from Congress than it was before Mueller delivered his testimony.
Why do I say that? I didn’t see a single Republican hero step forward during the daylong grilling. I heard no Republican ask a single question that challenged Trump’s phony assertion that Mueller’s 22-month-long investigation absolved him of collusion and obstruction of justice.
Mueller made it clear. His lengthy report did not exonerate Trump. He said that this president could be indicted after he leaves office. Which means to me that the president committed a crime (allegedly!). Except that Mueller could not indict him because of Office of Legal Counsel policies prohibiting the indictment of a sitting president.
So … what does all this mean?
It means to me that we haven’t budged at all from where we were at the beginning of the day.
Democrats have dug in that they either want to impeach Trump now or want to wait until more information becomes public. Republicans have dug in as well, defending a president they have known for a long time has committed a criminal act while running for president and while serving as president; Trump has obstructed justice, according to Mueller.
I want to compare what we heard today briefly to what transpired during the Watergate hearings of 1973 and 1974. Today we heard Republicans to a person stand firmly behind the president, ignoring the evidence they have heard. The Watergate Republicans, though, were able to muster enough courage to ask probing questions of White House senior aides, officials and campaign staffers.
Let’s remember that GOP Sen. Howard Baker of Tennessee asked the signature question: What did the president know and when did he know it? Moreover, the Republican chief counsel, future Tennessee U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson, asked the White House aide about the infamous tape recording system that President Nixon had installed in the Oval Office. After that it was game over!
We didn’t get that today.
Impeachment is now farther away than ever. This should not be the end, though, of Congress’s probe.