The big political news all week has been about former special counsel Robert Mueller’s congressional testimony, which took place on Wednesday in Washington D.C. As we noted yesterday, Colorado’s own Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) made quite the fool of himself — and may have opened the door to an obstruction of justice charge — when it was his turn to ask Mueller questions during a hearing in front of the House Judiciary Committee.
Buck’s questions for Mueller made national headlines (including this gem from Rolling Stone) because of the implication of his questioning and Mueller’s straightforward response. As Joe St. George wrote for Fox 31 Denver, “Colorado Republican Party Chairman Ken Buck Didn’t Help Trump During Mueller Questioning.” Here’s how The Hill newspaper summarized the importance of Buck and Mueller’s exchange:
Former special counsel Robert Mueller on Wednesday said that he believes President Trump could be charged with obstruction of justice after he leaves office.
“Could you charge the president with a crime after he left office?” Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) asked Mueller during the former special counsel’s testimony.
“Yes,” Mueller replied.
Buck appeared to be taken aback, and asked the question again, but adding whether Mueller believed a president could be charged with obstruction of justice after leaving office. The former special counsel again said he believed that was the case.
Welp, Congressman Buck was in full damage-control mode on Wednesday afternoon, where he was a guest on KHOW radio’s “The Dan Caplis Show” and proceeded to blame Mueller for not understanding his questions. As Eli Stokols of the Los Angeles Times (and formerly Fox 31 Denver) notes:
— Eli Stokols (@EliStokols) July 25, 2019
That’s right, dear readers! Ken Buck says old man Mueller just couldn’t comprehend this ingenious line of questioning, which went exactly like this:
BUCK: Okay, but the … could you charge the president with a crime after he left office?
BUCK: You believe that he committed … you could charge the president of the United States with obstruction of justice after he left office?
Um, sorry Ken. This is really not even sorta complicated.
Here’s more of Buck’s Wednesday interview with Jon Caldara, who was sitting in for the host on “The Dan Caplis Show“:
CALDARA: Hey, congratulations on asking what seems to be the…the only news of this Mueller…testifying. Give me your first impressions. It seemed cruel that anyone had to sit through this. How bad was it?
BUCK: Well, I tell ya, I felt bad for Mueller. He just didn’t look like he was well today, and I don’t know what was going on. But his tank of gas was on empty, because he just struggled with a lot of different questions. He misunderstood my question on two different occasions. He backtracked from it. And so, it was…it was tough to watch…
CALDARA: What made you want to ask the question about the indictment?
BUCK: Well…it’s fundamentally unfair to say that the President did not commit a crime, and nobody in his campaign committed a crime, concerning Russian conspiracy. And then to say, ‘There’s all these facts about obstruction, but I’m not going to offer an opinion.’ He knew he could not prosecute that case. And finally, in the Intelligence Committee, he said, ‘I will not opine on whether there is a case to be charged on obstruction or not.’ And that’s the only way that…that’s the answer that I wanted, and it’s the answer he gave ultimately but he didn’t give it early enough.
CALDARA: Let me be really clear with you, Congressman, because that’s important. You’re telling me that he never said that there was a case for obstruction of justice. So, you really tried to pin him on this. So, is there a case…he wouldn’t say there was. Am I understanding you correctly?
BUCK: Yes, that’s absolutely correct. What he said was that the President could be charged – or ‘A’ President could be charged after he left office. But he also said he would not opine on whether the facts presented in the report warranted a prosecution.
CALDARA: And that was THE big question of the whole morning – of the last 2 and a half years, hasn’t it been?
BUCK: Well, I think it is. And I was kind of stunned that nobody asked it. You know, I was, what, 14thor 15thin line to ask questions. And that’s why I just thought, ‘I’ve got to ask this question,’ because if they proceed with impeachment and the person who has been studying this issue for a long time has not…will not opine on that issue, [then] we have a problem.
A bit later in the interview, Buck says that he changed his approach with Mueller because some other Members of Congress took what he was going to say:
CALDARA: How much preparation do you put in for something like this, or the Republican team? Obviously the Democrats were hoping for a slam dunk. They put on a great A/V show and all the rest. It didn’t materialize. Is this something that you know is political theater and you kind of suffer through, or is there a lot of preparation to make sure you get the question you got off today…out?
BUCK: Sure, we prepared for weeks for this. And, frankly, the line of questioning that I wanted to use had been developed twice before me, and so that’s why I went to a different line of questioning and asked what I asked.
This is all nonsense.
The simple truth is that Buck made the cardinal prosecutorial sin of asking questions he didn’t already know the answer to. Mueller’s answers reflected poorly on Buck and poorly on President Trump, and all he said to say was, “Yes.”