Americans who thought Robert Mueller was a bit off during his testimony to Congress last year apparently were not the only ones to express concern.
Friends of Mueller’s thought “something happened” to him during the Russia probe, Washington Post reporter Carol Leonnig told CNN Tuesday. Friends suggested to Leonnig, co-author of a new book titled A Very Stable Genius, that the “boy scout” prosecutor had changed and that he was out of his depth in the hyper-partisan Trump era, according to the Washington Examiner.
“Phil and I, my co-author, we are not medical professionals, but over and over again…we heard from people who are very close to Bob Mueller, who found him a different person, a changed person, after two years of this investigation,” Leonnig said to CNN anchor John Berman.
Friends say “something happened” to Mueller
Mueller’s investigation, once the top media story in the country, has become a mere afterthought in the wake of Donald Trump’s impeachment over separate matters involving Ukraine. But the scandal really started to die when Mueller, under pressure from Democrats clamoring for a public indictment of the president, reluctantly testified about the findings of his 22-month investigation into alleged Russian collusion.
Americans were caught off guard when Mueller, after almost two years of being portrayed as some kind of demi-god by Democrats and the mainstream media, appeared lost and confused, at times even barely familiar with the contents of his report. Behind the scenes, though, friends and colleagues knew something was off, according to Leonnig.
In their new book, Leonnig and co-author Phil Rucker describe how Attorney General Bill Barr and former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein were left worried after a meeting with Mueller about his report, during which they observed that “his hands shook” and “his voice was shaky too,” and friends of Mueller’s soon noticed he had changed “dramatically.” Some of Mueller’s intimates knew what was wrong, but wouldn’t share, according to Leonnig.
But “they know that something happened, he’s a different person, he was stumbling over his words,” and they were left aghast by the change, said the author. Friends said that they couldn’t watch his testimony, remarking: “It wasn’t the Bob I knew.”
Myth founders on rocks of reality
Mueller’s silence throughout the Russia probe only added to the liberal mystique of the superhero prosecutor who would save America from the evil Donald Trump.
But in the end, he found no proof of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia after nearly two years of investigation, and he muddled things further when he declined to either charge or exonerate the president with obstruction of justice, in a highly unusual move.
Leonnig said that her sources believed that Mueller had been outmaneuvered by Barr, whom many Democrats have made out to be a partisan for Trump who whitewashed Mueller’s report before it was released. In fact, Mueller said that Barr had interpreted his findings in good faith in a brief statement that came prior to his testimony.
“Many of our sources felt very strongly that Bob Mueller was playing a 1950s Boy Scout game,” Leonnig said. “He was being an honorable icon and standard-bearer of the Department of Justice, whereas Bill Barr was playing in Trump’s 2000s, and he was messaging this very well, and he was the first person to get out the message, ‘Donald Trump’s been exonerated.’”
But Mueller wasn’t outgunned by anyone. If his mind was going, as those close to him apparently knew, then what was he doing leading the most politically significant FBI investigation in decades?