CNN Mess: Panelists Concede Trump Won Hearing, But Still Insist Dems Impeach

Just after 3:30 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday, the Robert Mueller hearings came to a merciful end. In the immediate 30 minutes or so, an assembled group of CNN personalities painstakingly admitting that the President had won the day while others also insisted that Congress can only sufficiently protect American democracy if the President is impeached.

Inside Politics host John King tried to walk a tight rope himself, conceding that “you do not have that viral, movie trailer moment of Robert Mueller looking directly into a camera and saying something in 15 or 20 seconds that the Democrats can spread around the world.”

 

 

Later in the segment, he was backed up by crime and Justice reporter Evan Perez, who asserted that there was no “oh my God” or “‘ah ha’ moment from this.” And beyond that, chief political analyst Gloria Borger was pained to state that “I don’t think this has moved the needle one way or the other” as “I don't think Mueller did any convincing today.”

At the same time, CNN still tried to put on a positive front for the left.

For example, King offered some positive spin for the impeachment crowd (click “expand”):

[H]e left it to the Democrats to read the report, the damning parts of the report. The Democrats had to read them and Mueller said yes or no. If you're writing a book report on the last seven and a half hours and you took detailed notes, the substantive picture of this President, his campaign and the people around him, is pretty damning. The Democrats did go through these ten episodes of obstruction, and that's not behavior to be applauded....The ethics and all the people around him were questioned throughout the day.... If you read the report as we talked about months or, if you listened to you will seven hours today, that is not a favorable picture of this President and the people around him and how they do their business. 

Liberal legal analyst and CNN Tonight fill-in host Laura Coates gushed that while she was “frustrated....to watch it” at certain points, Mueller “was successful that he was neither a pawn or a pinata today” by “not giv[ing] fuel to any argument.”

Jeffrey Toobin pointed out that Trump and Mueller share some things in common such as their upbringings, but are polar opposites in behavior and temperament. But that said, Toobin dropped this doozy:

[Mueller] didn't pass judgment beyond what was precisely in the report and as we all know from — from, you knjow, watching tweets and watching the President, they — they are just so different. And you look at who's winning now, it certainly seems like Donald Trump is winning between the two of them. 

Awhile after panelists mocked of the President for tweeting “TRUTH IS A FORCE OF NATURE,” controversial former FBI lawyer Jim Baker defended Mueller from observations from across the spectrum that he didn’t seem as sharp as expected because, the teams that play in the Super Bowl aren’t always sharp from kickoff (click “expand”):

Or was he just nervous? It was like the Super Bowl, like, you know, the first few plays of the Super Bowl, the teams are not always — my sense is it is nervous. I mean, it’s nerve-wracking to go in front of Congress and I've done it a bunch of times but not in this setting and when you’ve got all those cameras facing you and all the buildup and how everybody has talking about it for months. I'm guessing he was just nervous and he wanted to be constrained as he could possibly be. We all knew that and that’s what he telegraphed and he just didn't want to be there so you weren't going to get much out of him so I think he had to find his sea legs a bit and I think, as John was saying early, the second hearing in the afternoon, he was a — he had a sound footing. He looked a lot better. The answers were a lot better. 

But to end the 3:00 p.m. Eastern hour before The Lead, Coates and Baker gave pep talks arguing that Congress not impeaching Trump would be a rejection of the Constitution and spell danger for America’s future (click “expand”):

 

 

COATES: Are we kicking the down the road. Because, think about it. First of all, let’s just say it. The book was better than the movie today, okay? We all agree. It was better than the movie, but now we're putting form over substance. It was already there. All of the information you would need to already bring it to life was already in the actual report, so the idea of kicking the can down the road to say, “hey, will this be enough now?” Essentially, it’s like a Wizard of Oz moment here, ladies and gentlemen, you had the power to go home along, Congress. Are you going to exercise it or not? I agree, having a moment isn't a blockbuster important to galvanize the moderate Democrats, Republicans to get over there but we're talking about impeachment or an impeachment inquiry. If we're in the inquiry stages, there’s more than enough information to go forward. 

(....)

BAKER: But one of the things I'm concerned about is quite frankly the failure of Congress as an institution. I mean, if this information isn't enough for them to take some type of action to — to check the President, then where are we? I mean, the volume one tells a frightening story about what the Russians did. Volume two tells an appalling story about what the President did with respect to interfering with the investigation that was intended to protect the country....It’s an abdication or they are not capable of it. Over the time they have ceded so much authority to the President, all these emergency authorities that it’s granted to him and they are unable to exercise the power the Constitution gives them.....If you can’t — if the House can't act because the Senate won't, then Congress as an institution is incapable of holding the President accountable. 

COATES: Pelosi's tenure should never have been a factor in the entire inquiry into this discussion. I understand the longevity, you want to be able to remain the Speaker of House, but talking about constituency and the United States of America, not the United States of Pelosi, if that is her interest and it’s vested, that’s irrelevant to me as a voter. I will say the notion here of suggesting that, I think you're right on the idea of the cession of power, the abdication of responsibility, I deal with juries. I can't guarantee a conviction but I can guarantee the pursuit of justice. If the American people look at this and say unless you can guarantee a conviction, no prosecutor should ever act. It’d be prudent not to do so, we would not have a single trial in America. If the guarantee impeachment conviction is the only thing that protects democracy, then they've missed the mark. 

To see the relevant transcript from their coverage of the Mueller hearings on July 24, click “expand.”

CNN’s Robert Mueller Hearing coverage
July 24, 2019
3:37 p.m. Eastern

JAKE TAPPER: They got into the weeds on a lot of issues, the Republicans and Democrats, but did you hear from a political standpoint a bombshell emerging during these seven hours? 

JOHN KING: Well, I think the answer to the question is, how do you look at this? We're hearing from Kaitlan Collins at the White House, the President is happy today. I think he's happy today, because you do not have that viral, movie trailer moment of Robert Mueller looking directly into a camera and saying something in 15 or 20 seconds that the Democrats can spread around the world about there's a case for you to impeach or I would have indicted if I could have but I was stuck. He didn't say any of those things and he left it to the Democrats to read the report, the damning parts of the report. The Democrats had to read them and Mueller said yes or no. If you're writing a book report on the last seven and a half hours and you took detailed notes, the substantive picture of this President, his campaign and the people around him, is pretty damning. The Democrats did go through these ten episodes of obstruction, and that's not behavior to be applauded. There was a lot about how much they welcomed the help, how much Donald Trump Jr. and other people welcome the help from the Russians. How the President himself in the exchange that Quigley just talked about right there, how the president was gleeful that a hostile foreign actor was interfering in the election, and helping him. The — the director said several times the President was not truthful or his answers were not truthful or not as helpful as he would help [sic]. He would not answer follow-up questions, he refused to sit down for an in person interview. The President of the United States refusing to sit down with the special counsel. The ethics and all the people around him were questioned throughout the day. Is there a moment, if you’re going to go on social media tonight or a clip you can play right now of Robert Mueller saying that in a 15 to 20 second compelling way? No, that's why the President is happy. If you read the report as we talked about months or, if you listened to you will seven hours today, that is not a favorable picture of this President and the people around him and how they do their business. 

(....)

3:39 p.m. Eastern

LAURA COATES: He was successful that he was neither a pawn or a pinata today. I mean, as frustrated as it was to watch it moments in time, is there more you can give, he did not give fuel to any argument, he didn't give a whole lot of fire outside of maybe his inability to be concise and coherent at some points about what he wanted to say. But the idea I heard, is the notion of cost. That phrase keeps going in my mind. The figurative sense of the idea that the President of the United States was thinking about in literal terms, whether democracy was for sale, whether there was a benefit he could actually get from being able to have Russian interference, was it going to be that Trump Tower in Moscow later on, was there a notion they benefit financially? And I’ll say the idea that Mueller told us today, the reason he didn't subpoena the President of the United States and get a comprehensive response, is a cost benefit analysis of how long it would take to litigate the matter, versus his deadline presumably to conclude the investigation and that should be alarming to people in the sense that he didn't feel they were sufficient. He thought they were generally untrue, but thought, you know what? I'm either going to have on the one hand protracted litigation or I can tee it up for people who may be more efficient prior to the 2020 election. That’s not adequate. 

GLORIA BORGER: He didn't indict him anyway. 

COATES: I can't indict him anyway. 

JEFFREY TOOBIN: I was struck by the enormous personal contrast between Robert Mueller and Donald Trump. You know, they have a lot of common. They're within months of each other in terms of how old they are. They were both raised in wealth, both Ivy League educated. And in demeanor and in approach, they could not — they're from different planets. You know, he said so much less than he could have said. He — he — he with — he didn't pass judgment beyond what was precisely in the report and as we all know from — from, you know, watching tweets and watching the President, they — they are just so different. And you look at who's winning now, it certainly seems like Donald Trump is winning between the two of them. 

(....)

3:43 p.m. Eastern

BLITZER: Was there something new that you learned today that — and all of us have read the report that we didn't know going into these seven hours? 

EVAN PEREZ: Look, I don't think that as John was saying, I don’t think there's not any moment that stood out that says, “oh my God.” There’s no “ah ha!” moment from this. I — I was hoping to hear a little more clarity about whether or not we look at this report as a referral. You know, something more from Mueller to say, “hey, Congress, I went as far as you can go — I can go, the ball is in your court now.” And we did not hear that. He bent over backwards to not say that, he refused to say the I-word, and for me, you know, I think — you know, if the Democrats went into the day looking for a blessing from Robert Mueller to start this impeachment inquiry, I don't think they got that. I think that's a win for the President. 

(....)

3:45 p.m. Eastern

TAPPER: That's interesting for the President to be saying in all caps, TRUTH IS A FORCE OF NATURE because what we've been hearing today is how many lies President Trump and the team around him have told, whether it’s telling Don McGahn, the White House counsel, to lie about what he told him about firing Mueller or all the lies that relates to the actual Russian election interference and all the — did the President dictating of the lie about why Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort met with that lawyer at Trump Tower, the concocting this idea that it didn't have anything to do with attempted interference. 

BORGER: It was all about lies, and Eric Swalwell raised that, raised all the lying that the Trump officials did to the special counsel and the special counsel made the point, “yeah, we were lied to.” And their use of encryption devices and their destruction of electronic messages. Does that sound familiar? Their destruction of their messages really hindered the investigation. But overall here, I mean, just looking at that — at that tweet from the President in all caps, makes me realize that the President's fighting one war and Bob Mueller's fighting another and the President is a counter puncher, I think he felt today, “Ah! This guy is like punching Jell-O. There’s no — it's easy! There’s no problem here. He's never going to fight back.” And Mueller wasn't punching. He wasn't punching anything. He didn't want to fight, he wanted to tell you what was in that report without reading it out loud, but he wanted to tell the American public there is a problem here with foreign interference. His job here was not to indict the president, it was not to impeach the president of the United States. It was to inform the American public about the problem that we have. So Donald Trump had one goal, and that was not to be destroyed and Robert Mueller had no intention of doing that directly. 

TAPPER: And John King on Earth Two, a different Donald Trump is tweeting, “Ask your President. I'm going to do everything I can to prevent election interference from ever happening again.” But right now, we are saddled on Earth One.

KING: If we could get back — yeah — if we could get into the other parallel universe and again, that's a very important, substantive point that Director Mueller made and that Jim made about the origin of the investigation that, as we sit in this room, Mueller said the Russians are still at it, and as we sit in this conversation the current President of the United States has no proactively taken on this challenge. Whatever your opinion about 2016, whatever your opinion how he was elected. What happened, whatever your opinion about this document, the Mueller report or the testimony today, that is a simple fact that even people in his own administration are afraid to talk to him about this. People in the senior positions, the people that have to do this, that is a terrible dynamic. Back to the other point. The President tweeting “THE TRUTH” in all caps, look, the President today was worried two audiences: the American people and the Republican party. And would anybody in Congress today, any Republican be swayed on this question of should there be more hearings, never mind should there even be impeachment? Should we keep investigating this? Should we have more hearings? Should we go at this? The President is completely confident the Republican map didn't change at all. I would say, we'll see. We’ll. There are those smaller moments. There was no big compelling moment. There are those smaller moments about instructions of documents and messages about lies that could percolate. We’ll see in a week, ten days. It takes a few days for these things to settle into public opinion if that changes. Here’s my big question. When we woke up this morning, there were 88 House Democrats saying impeach. Start the proceedings today. 17 — I’m sorry — 15 of the 24 Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, that's 60 percent of the committee. 15 Members of that committee, which would run an impeachment proceeding, this morning said impeach. What's that math tomorrow or the day after?

(....)

3:51 p.m. Eastern

JIM BAKER: Or was he just nervous? It was like the Super Bowl, like, you know, the first few plays of the Super Bowl, the teams are not always — my sense is it is nervous. I mean, it’s nerve-wracking to go in front of Congress and I've done it a bunch of times but not in this setting and when you’ve got all those cameras facing you and all the buildup and how everybody has talking about it for months. I'm guessing he was just nervous and he wanted to be constrained as he could possibly be. We all knew that and that’s what he telegraphed and he just didn't want to be there so you weren't going to get much out of him so I think he had to find his sea legs a bit and I think, as John was saying early, the second hearing in the afternoon, he was a — he had a sound footing. He looked a lot better. The answers were a lot better. 

(....)

3:53 p.m. Eastern

BORGER: I don’t think this has moved the needle one way or the other. Politically, I would say those people are inclined to think that Mueller blew it and it was a terrible investigation and a hoax are still going to think that, I think. I don't think Mueller did any convincing today. I don't think he wanted to, to be honest, because he couldn't go — he couldn’t go beyond the report. 

(....)

3:55 p.m. Eastern

COATES: Are we kicking the down the road. Because, think about it. First of all, let’s just say it. The book was better than the movie today, okay? We all agree. It was better than the movie, but now we're putting form over substance. It was already there. All of the information you would need to already bring it to life was already in the actual report, so the idea of kicking the can down the road to say, “hey, will this be enough now?” Essentially, it’s like a wizard of oz moment here, ladies and gentlemen, you had the power to go home along, congress. Are you going to exercise it or not? I agree, having a moment isn't a blockbuster important to galvanize the moderate Democrats, Republicans to get over there but we're talking about impeachment or an impeachment inquiry. If we're in the inquiry stages, there’s more than enough information to go forward. 

KING: But the argument — again the argument the most aggressive liberals for impeachment make — is that how long will it take? They want to get Don McGahn to testify. It’s been litigated. They want to get other people to testify. It’s being litigated. They believe if you have a former impeachment hearing, you have a higher constitutional power and then those witnesses have to testify. That is their argument to Chairman Nadler, to the Speaker saying if we make this about impeachment then they can't invoke these privileges, then they have to come because it is essentially a criminal proceeding by the House. 

(....)

3:58 p.m. Eastern

JIM BAKER: But one of the things I'm concerned about is quite frankly the failure of Congress as an institution. I mean, if this information isn't enough for them to take some type of action to — to check the President, then where are we? I mean, the volume one tells a frightening story about what the Russians did. Volume two tells an appalling story about what the President did with respect to interfering with the investigation that was intended to protect the country. 

PEREZ: It is — an abdication of their responsibility, right?

BAKER: It’s an abdication or they are not capable of it. Over the time they have ceded so much authority to the President, all these emergency authorities that it’s granted to him and they are unable to exercise the power the Constitution gives them. 

BLITZER: We’ve heard Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker say if there are no Republicans who will come along, whether in the house and certainly in the senate, go ahead and impeach in the House but go nowhere, you’re going to get 67 senators to convict and remove the president from office, so what do you do? I mean, politically-speaking, she wants to be the Speaker. She doesn’t want to be the minority leader. 

BAKER: I agree with you. I don't have a solution to this. I’m just articulating that it seems look a failure. If you can’t — if the House can't act because the Senate won't, then Congress as an institution is incapable of holding the President accountable. 

COATES: Pelosi's tenure should never have been a factor in the entire inquiry into this discussion. I understand the longevity, you want to be able to remain the Speaker of House, but talking about constituency and the United States of America, not the United States of Pelosi, if that is her interest and it’s vested, that’s irrelevant to me as a voter. I will say the notion here of suggesting that, I think you're right on the idea of the cession of power, the abdication of responsibility, I deal with juries. I can't guarantee a conviction but I can guarantee the pursuit of justice. If the American people look at this and say unless you can guarantee a conviction, no prosecutor should ever act. It’d be prudent not to do so, we would not have a single trial in America. If the guarantee impeachment conviction is the only thing that protects democracy, then they've missed the mark. 

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