Gary Abernathy, a contributing columnist for The Post, is a freelance writer and former newspaper editor based in Hillsboro, Ohio.
Among the concluding words of the Bible is this admonition: “If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:18-19)
Likewise, former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III regards as complete and infallible his written report on his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible “collusion” or obstruction of justice by President Trump and associates. As Mueller made clear in his only comments since his report was handed down from on high, he has no interest in testifying before Congress, because he has provided from beginning to end that which he intends humankind to know.
“Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report,” Mueller said back in May. “It contains our findings and analysis, and the reasons for the decisions we made. We chose those words carefully, and the work speaks for itself. And the report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.”
One envisions Mueller sitting at the witness table and, under questioning, doing nothing more than leafing to the appropriate page of his sacred text to recite his answers. Mueller is smart. He understands that many regard him as an infallible arbiter of truth. His admirers portray him as beyond reproach. Throughout his investigation, he remained inscrutable and aloof. He knows that testifying can do nothing but lessen the impact of his written words.
The Mueller report has been scrutinized and debated just as biblical scholars parse the meaning and intent of every word of scripture. God does not subject himself to man’s interrogations. He does not clarify his intent or participate in political theater. Likewise, Mueller understands the value in remaining above it all.
That is why, rather than resist the notion of Mueller testifying, Trump and his Republican allies should be clamoring for it. They should be thrilled that his advent was delayed a week to allow for more time and more questions. Why did he select certain members of his team and not others? Why did he interview some witnesses and ignore others with pertinent information? Why did he ask one set of questions and ignore other avenues of inquiry? Why did he break prosecutorial tradition and elaborate on incriminating episodes when no charges were forthcoming?
Highlighting those items and many others, no matter how inconsequential, will reveal that Mueller is a human being subject to the same imperfections as are all humans. Mueller knows it, too. He has nothing to gain and everything to lose by subjecting himself to the political agendas of Trump’s persecutors and defenders. His testimony cannot enhance his written report; it can only diminish it. Democrats are foolish for insisting on such a spectacle, and it is likely Mueller has tried to explain as much as he negotiates his manifestation before Congress.
In fact, Mueller, a churchgoing man, knows he is not God. He is fully aware that he is not omnipotent or divinely inspired. He realizes that the more he elaborates in public testimony, the more his fallibilities will be revealed. He worked hard on his written report and fine-tuned it to perfection. “We chose those words carefully, and the report speaks for itself,” he said. His report is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end.
Everyone from Abraham Lincoln to Mark Twain has been credited for a variation of the quote, “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” Regardless of its source, it is a sentiment filled with wisdom. It is widely agreed that Trump’s approval rating would jump several points if he would cease his endless tweet-fests. He chooses instead to remove all doubt on a daily basis. By contrast, Mueller knows silence is golden.
“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies,” King David wrote in the 23rd Psalm, describing God’s care for him under dire circumstances. But in their bloodlust to devour Trump, Democrats are leading Mueller to a witness table prepared for him in the presence of his Republican enemies, content to make him their sacrificial lamb.