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Robert Mueller’s testimony disappointed anyone seeking drama, but his performance isn’t the problem. What keeps congressional Democrats from fulfilling their constitutional duty to confront a lawless president is their own political inertia.

In his own careful and stolid way, Mueller laid out the facts and arguments provided in his 448-page report (although he evidently hasn’t yet memorized each page, to the satisfaction of his detractors). Within the opening minutes of the hearing, Mueller’s answers to House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler established that his report did not “exculpate” President Trump in any way; that in at least 10 instances, Trump attempted to stop the investigation by ordering Mueller’s dismissal and discouraging witnesses from testifying; and that Trump refused to sit for an interview with Mueller or even answer questions about those many instances of alleged obstruction.

Those complaining that Mueller didn’t make any “news” on Wednesday might look again at this exchange between him and Nadler, when he verbally rebutted Trump for the first time in public:

NADLER: Director Mueller, the president has repeatedly claimed that your report found there was no obstruction and that it completely and totally exonerated him, but that is not what your report said, is it?

MUELLER: Correct. That is not what the report said.

NADLER: Now, reading from page 2 of Volume 2 of your report that’s on the screen, you wrote, quote, “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment,” close quote.

Now does that say there was no obstruction?

MUELLER: No.

NADLER: In fact, you were actually unable to conclude the president did not commit obstruction of justice, is that correct?

MUELLER: Well, we at the outset determined that we — when it came to the president’s culpability, we needed to — we needed — we needed to go forward only after taking into account the [Office of Legal Counsel] opinion that indicated that a president — sitting president cannot be indicted.

NADLER: So the report did not conclude that he did not commit obstruction of justice, is that correct?

MUELLER: That is correct.

NADLER: And what about total exoneration? Did you actually totally exonerate the president?

MUELLER: No.

Under further questioning, Nadler said that the president “could be prosecuted for obstruction of justice crimes after he leaves office.” That statement, Mueller affirmed, is “true.”

During his hours before the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, Mueller reiterated repeatedly the basic outline of the grave crimes against democracy that this president is alleged to have perpetrated. Mueller confirmed that the Trump campaign welcomed and encouraged the Russians, who sought his victory, to interfere in the 2016 presidential campaign. He confirmed that the president lied incessantly about that interference by claiming that the Kremlin conspiracy was “a hoax.” And he confirmed that when the government opened an investigation into that Russian interference — perhaps the most significant criminal and counterintelligence matter of our lifetimes — Trump attempted to stop it, over and over again, by command and by threat.

In his sometimes-halting testimony, Mueller attempted to protect his nonpartisan credentials and to emphasize the fairness and impartiality of his work. That was an understandable impulse but also a choice that Republicans exploited to attack him. Worse yet, those same Republican members minimized the Russian assault on our system, in the style of Fox News conspiracy theorists who sound as if they are programmed by the Kremlin.

But the story of the 2016 campaign and the effort to kill the Mueller investigation came through despite all the verbal chaff from the far right. There can be no adequate response to that story except an impeachment inquiry — which is what the House Democrats are now conducting, without organizing or naming it correctly.

Speaker Pelosi may not relish that idea, but she knows that Trump cannot be permitted to get away with these high crimes and misdemeanors. She and her colleagues need to recognize what they are doing — and get out of their own way.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Sen. David Perdue

Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) pulled out of his final debate against Democrat Jon Ossoff on Thursday —because he'd rather attend a Donald Trump campaign rally.

The Nov. 1 Senate debate was planned months ago, but Perdue's campaign said he could not participate as promised because he has been too busy doing his job.

"Senator Perdue will not be participating in the WSB-TV debate but will instead join the 45th president, Donald J. Trump, for a huge Get-Out-The-Vote rally in Northwest Georgia. For 8 of the last 14 days of this campaign, Senator Perdue went back to Washington to work for much needed COVID relief," his spokesperson John Burke said in a statement, referencing a failed attempt by Senate Republicans to pass Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) "skinny" $500 billion proposal.

"To make up for the lost time, Senator Perdue has over 20 campaign stops planned for the closing days of this race, and he is excited to welcome and join President Trump in Georgia before November 3rd to campaign for both of their re-election efforts," Burke added.

WSB-TV noted on Thursday that it offered Perdue's campaign other time slots to accommodate the Trump rally, but the overture was rebuffed.

Ossoff's campaign blasted Perdue's "cowardly withdrawal," saying in a statement that the move "says it all: David Perdue feels entitled to his office, and he'll do anything to avoid accountability for his blatant corruption and his total failure during this unprecedented health crisis."

The incumbent's decision to break his promise to debate came one day after a video of Jon Ossoff criticizing Perdue's anti-Obamacare record at a Wednesday debate went viral. As of Friday morning, a 72-second clip of Ossoff has been viewed more than 12 million times.

Perdue responded to that attack by making the odd claim that he repeatedly voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act — which would take insurance away from hundreds of thousands of his constituents — because he believed doing so would cover more people.

"I voted against the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, because it was taking insurance away from millions of Georgians. Today almost 18 percent of Georgians don't have any health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act," he falsely claimed.

This is not the first time Perdue has put Trump ahead of the interests of Georgians. According to FiveThirtyEight, he has voted with Trump about 95 percent of the time, including backing his right-wing Supreme Court nominees, his tax cuts for large corporations and the very wealthy, and his repeated attempts to take money from military families to pay for a massive Southern border wall.

Medical experts and data analyses have suggested Trump's rallies have been super-spreader events for the coronavirus. Trump has refused to adhere to social distancing rules or to require mask usage at the events and the mass gatherings have frequently been immediately followed by case spikes in the communities where he holds them.

One poll this week found that voters across the country said they are less likely to vote for Trump because of his "large, in-person campaign rallies where wearing a mask is not required of attendees."

The race between Ossoff and Perdue is considered a "toss-up" by election experts, and polls show it as virtual tied.

If no candidate gets a majority on Tuesday, the top two finishers will face off in a January runoff.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.