Those who care about the rule of law should stop buying the Fox News angle that Robert Mueller's appearance before two congressional panels was, as at least one progressive and sympathetic commentator said, "A disaster."
Americans shouldn't give a rodent's rear-end that Mueller "looked old," that occasionally he "fumbled" for answers from all those 400-plus pages of reportage.
What possible difference does that make?
It only matters in advancing the frantic, Fox-ified campaign to discredit the investigation that a Republican attorney general assigned Mueller to do.
Bob Mueller isn't the subject of this inquiry. The fabulist in the White House is.
Mueller fumbled a time or two. So recorded. He held firm, however, on questions about the crimes in question.
Per Trump's cheerleading of Wikileaks, which Mueller described as a "hostile intelligence service," Mueller said, "Problematic is an understatement . . . in terms of giving some hope or some boost to what is and should be illegal activity."
It was fascinating when Republicans tried the mind trick of saying Mueller is in no position to exonerate Trump of anything. Do tell.
Mueller didn't introduce "exoneration" into the discussion. The liar in the White House did – and has repeated it over and over.
So when asked if his investigation exonerated Donald Trump, Mueller's answer: "That is not what the report said."
That doesn't sound like a fumble.
Mueller clearly implied that without the handcuffs applied by an Office of Legal Counsel finding -- that a sitting president can't be indicted -- he would have pressed for just that on multiple counts of obstruction.
So doing, Mueller said Attorney General William Barr lied. Barr said the absence of indictments was based on the lack of evidence and not constraints placed on Mueller by the department.
Republicans did a smashing job of trying to make the hearings about Mueller, but one of the key moments came when Republican Ken Buck of Colorado managed to get Mueller to assert that, yes, when Trump at last walks out of the Oval Office for good, he can be charged with crimes committed there.
The limits on such prosecution have been cited as the reason why the federal probe of Trump's hush-money arrangements with a porn star have yet to result in an indictment of him, though associated crimes landed former fixer Michael Cohen behind bars.
What about Russia's attack on our democracy? Yes, what about it, Republicans? How could you possibly talk right past the crime of the century? Do you care?
Mueller wants Americans to know the scope of that crime against our democracy and the fact that Russia is surely at it again, along with other players like Saudi Arabia and Iran.
One of the underreported aspects of Mueller's testimony was the reference to the fact that the FBI investigation into these things is ongoing. Certainly it should be, because we can assume Russia's activities continue -- undoubtedly directed at bolstering Trump's chances of re-election.
In the egregiousness sweepstakes, it's a toss-up between Republicans' looking the other way as Trump obstructed justice, or their whistling past mounds of evidence of what Russia has done.
Another point: It's one thing to have confirmed, adjudicated illegality by someone hired to serve us. It's another to document a total abandonment of ethics in the nation's highest office. Seemingly the latter would be sufficient for Republicans to feel really crummy about the person who makes his own case for "exoneration." For himself.
Like counsel for a killer whose DNA is all over the murder weapon, today's GOP is concerned only with what hairs it can split – destroying what evidence it can in the process.
Again, the issue isn't the graying strands over Mueller's tired brow. The issue is the guy with the alien-tint follicles, the man hired by us to execute the law, who -- history will show -- brushed off his ethical and legal obligations like dandruff flakes.