FBI, warned early and often that Manafort file might be fake, used it anyway
House Democrats must insist that Robert Mueller testifies publicly
If Robert Mueller - the former Marine Corps captain, U.S. Attorney, deputy attorney general and FBI director - really wants to continue to serve his country, there is no other option: The special counsel must buck up and face the cameras and the country.
Here are at least four reasons why:
- Enough of hiding behind redacted and even unredacted pages of words. What we know in communication strategy is that words are far less powerful than human non-verbals. Some studies even put the impact of words at only 7 percent, with voice tone at 38 percent and body language at 55 percent.
- To not testify in person gives President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr a massive advantage. We've seen and heard Mr. Trump emphatically state "No collusion, no obstruction," and to go on and on about how unfair and flawed and illegal and unjust the entire Mueller investigation was, and any and all negative findings in the final report.
The intensity of both his voice and his facial gestures registers. They land deep into the conscious and subconscious of the American audience, especially those pre-disposed toward Mr. Trump. Attorney General Barr's calm, cool, erudite, sophisticated posturing also registers, profoundly reinforcing his boss's assertions.
To put a transcript of Mueller's testimony up against, literally, years of powerful voice tone and body language from Trump and months of the same from Mr. Barr is to put a high school team up against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. Mueller has to go "mano a mano" against those who question his credibility and his team's investigation, in order to set the record straight. Live, public, televised testimony is the only way to do so.
- Against this daily backdrop of presidential tweets and televised declarations of "Witch hunt!" and "Scam!" and "17 Angry Democrats!" - and so much more - Mueller's refusal to face the music and testify publicly will look and feel like a reinforcement of every one of Trump's arguments. "He must not stand behind his report," many people will be inclined to conclude. "If he really believed all the bad things he said about the president in his report, then he would have the courage to say so directly to the American people. Why is he hiding behind closed doors?"
- Democrats need to "buck up" as well. If House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and fellow House Democrats allow Mueller to hide behind closed doors, what does it say about the Democrats' belief in the strength of their assertions, their case? People who love Donald Trump love his guts, his willingness to go to the mat for what he wants. Democrats finally have subpoena power. Why in the world would they not make use of that? What are Democrats afraid of?
They need to tell Mueller, "I'm sorry, Mr. Special Counsel, but we need for you to testify under oath, live and in an open hearing and, if you won't agree, then we will subpoena you to do so."
If Mueller and his team's two years of painstaking work have any value, they have to put a face on it. America will not read a transcript, but it will tune in, and the special counsel's distinguished face, as well as his expressions, the sincerity and conviction and emphasis in his voice - or lack thereof - on live television are absolutely critical to our moving forward (hopefully together) as a nation.
Otherwise, Robert Mueller, instead of being the patriot we all thought he was, will have led us all down a long path only to ultimately bow down and surrender to Donald Trump.
Richard Greene is an author, columnist, radio host, political communications strategist and public speaker. He is a former fellow at the Constitutional Rights Foundation, a former attorney and the founder of 279 for Change, which advocates a new approach to engaging in politics. Follow him on Twitter @TheCivicsDean.