The ladies had to wait till just about the end. But when their time to speak finally came, U.S. Reps. Mary Gay Scanlon and Madeleine Dean did what many of their voters in Delaware and Montgomery Counties had sent them to Washington to do.
They leaned into hot microphones, and from their seats on the dais of the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, the freshman congresswomen tried to get presidential blood out of the stone also known as former special counsel Robert Mueller.
Scanlon, a lawyer from Swarthmore, and Dean, a lawyer and former state lawmaker from Abington, tried to get Mueller to elaborate on whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice in trying to shut down Mueller’s two-year probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.
If only Mueller had cooperated with any of them — the ladies, all the others in their Democratic Party, and the many Republican men, mainly, who sought to discredit the decorated Marine and former longtime FBI chief by yelling at Mueller like bullies on a playground.
For three hours before Scanlon spoke, Mueller declined to say just about anything in average-person-speak about his 448-page investigative report. It’s too bad, because too few Americans have read it, and Mueller himself has said it was mischaracterized by the U.S. attorney general when it was first released.
As a result, the 3½-hour hearing was like an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, where robots are forced to watch a terrible B movie — only on Wednesday, there was no snarky robot commentary to keep us sane through it all.
Scanlon, a public interest lawyer who won a seat in Delaware County and portions of Philadelphia that nine other Democrats had fought for, picked apart a section of the Mueller Report dealing with Trump’s knowledge of stolen Democratic emails. WikiLeaks published the correspondence online, causing great damage to Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016.
“Director Mueller, I want to ask you some questions about the president’s statements regarding advanced knowledge about the WikiLeaks dumps," Scanlon began. "So, the president refused to sit down with your investigators for an in-person interview. Correct?”
“According to deputy campaign manager Rick Gates, in the summer of 2016, he and candidate Trump were on the way to an airport shortly after WikiLeaks released its first set of stolen emails. And Gates told your investigators that candidate Trump was on a phone call, and when the call ended Trump told Gates that more releases of damaging information would be coming," Scanlon continued. "Do you recall that from the report?”
Said Mueller: “If it’s in the report, I support it.”
Scanlon, vice chairwoman of the committee, had been given only about three minutes to speak, since the hearing was running long. If she had a jugular move, we didn’t see it.
Dean had even less time, given Chairman Jerry Nadler’s efforts to get Mueller to a back-to-back-appearance before the House Intelligence Committee in time. Dean, a 1981 graduate of LaSalle University with a law degree from Widener, had to wave her left hand with a pencil in it before Mueller was able to spot her on the dais.
After that awkward moment, the former member of Pennsylvania’s state House of Representatives sought to get Mueller to characterize the ways in which Attorney General William Barr may have muddied Mueller’s findings after initially releasing a version of the report to the public earlier this year.
In the vacuum of Mueller’s refusal to elaborate, Dean soapboxed.
“There was public confusion, and the president took full advantage of that confusion by falsely claiming that your report found no obstruction,” Dean said, after Mueller refused to pinpoint previous criticism he had lobbed in writing toward Barr. “Let us be clear. Your report did not exonerate the president. Instead, it provided substantial evidence of obstruction of justice.”
What does all of this mean?
Dean and Scanlon, who represent firmly Democratic districts, have said they want an impeachment inquiry. Whether their party embarks on one is a long shot, given how in lockstep Senate Republicans are with Trump and, presumably, loathe to support impeachment.
What no one can question, however, is: Women are in the mix. And women, we saw from last week’s Women for Trump rally in King of Prussia, are a political force so powerful these days — voters leading that charge — that Republicans have made them a priority as a strategy to keep Trump in office next year.