While Democrats used their time questioning former Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Wednesday trying to draw out important aspects of his investigation’s final report, Republicans took the opportunity to grandstand about conspiracy theories and attack Mueller himself.
Many of these attacks were based on erroneous claims and distortions of fact. But Arizona Republican Rep. Debbie Lesko’s attempt to criticize Mueller may have been the most futile of all, as she somehow managed to undermine her own line of attack.
“Rather than purely relying on the evidence provided by witnesses and documents, I think you relied on a lot on the media,” she said of Mueller’s report on the Russia investigation. Of course, attacking Mueller and the media at once could theoretically be a smart play for a Republican, because conservatives are naturally distrustful of both.
But Lesko weakened her case somewhat by noting that in addition to citing the New York Times and the Washington Post frequently, the Mueller report also refers to Fox News more than two dozen times.
And then she gave away the game entirely. While some conservatives have criticized Mueller’s report for referring to the media frequently in its footnotes, the special counsel was explicit about why these citations are made. It does not suggest, as critics have alleged, the Mueller credulously accepted the truth of media reports as facts in a federal investigation. Instead, he cited these new reports as evidence about the context of Trump’s conduct, described in the report as potentially criminal. So he wasn’t relying on news outlet’s reporting but just claiming — as is obviously true — that such reports were public at specific times.
And Lesko admitted as much: “Mr. Mueller, you cited media reports nearly 200 times in your report. Then in a footnote, a small footnote, number 7, page 15 of Volume II of your report, you wrote, I quote: ‘This section summarizes and cites various news stories, not for the truth of the information contained in the stories, but rather to place candidate Trump’s response to those stories in context.’ Since nobody but lawyers reads footnotes, are you concerned that the American public took the embedded news stories —”
Lesko was then caught off, as her time had expired. But her point was absolutely ridiculous. The fact that Mueller included the footnote asserting that he doesn’t take the news reports at face value undermines the basis of her criticism, and her implied argument that the American people might get confused by skipping the footnotes is laughable. Of course, most people will never even read the report at all. And Lesko herself probably hasn’t, either, because if she did, she’d know that nothing in the body of the report’s text suggests that Mueller was simply regurgitating the media’s findings. Instead, he drew rigorous conclusions based on extensive investigation and interviews of witnesses conducted under threat of criminal penalty for lying.
Watch the clip below: