Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller appeared frail during his testimony in front of the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, sparking speculation from a variety of political sources about his abilities.
President Barack Obama’s former campaign director David Axelrod noted on Twitter that Mueller “does not appear as sharp as he was” during his testimony.
This is delicate to say, but Mueller, whom I deeply respect, has not publicly testified before Congress in at least six years. And he does not appear as sharp as he was then.
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) July 24, 2019
“This is delicate to say, but Mueller, whom I deeply respect, has not publicly testified before Congress in at least six years,” Axelrod noted on Twitter. “And he does not appear as sharp as he was then.”
At times, Mueller appeared confused or asked members of Congress to repeat their questions and responded with short answers or referred back to the report.
“Mueller’s inability to track questions/retrieve facts is noteworthy,” noted Greg Miller, a Washington Post National Security reporter on Twitter. “His inability to defend the integrity of his investigation and team might be more troubling.”
Mueller's inability to track questions/retrieve facts is noteworthy. His inability to defend the integrity of his investigation and team might be more troubling.
— Greg Miller (@gregpmiller) July 24, 2019
“People who have long admired and known Robert Mueller, are concerned about his visible struggle this morning to answer detailed, rapid-fire questions,” noted Washington Post reporter Carol Leonnig.
Even reporters on the House floor noted Mueller’s demeanor.
“Mueller having a hard time following the questions on first pass. Asking members to often repeat their questions,” CNN’s Manu Raju noted. “In his defense, the questions can be long and meandering, though it comes across as if he’s uncertain.”
House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler called for a break in the testimony at about two hours after the hearing began, prompting analysts to weigh in on his performance.
CNN’s chief legal analyst Jeffery Toobin noted on the network Mueller was responding in a “very limited” way describing it as “phlegmatic.”
Author Garrett Graff, who wrote a book about Mueller, noted he was “a little bit shakier” and perhaps working on “shaking off the rust” since leaving the FBI. Both analysts questioned whether Mueller’s appearance was part of a “strategy.”
On NBC News, Justice Correspondent Pete Williams noted the stark change in Mueller’s abilities.
“This is not the same Robert Mueller,” he said, noting that the former FBI director’s appearance was starkly different from when he testified in Congress six years ago. He also noted that Mueller was 75-years old.
“The years have clearly taken a toll on the Bob Mueller we used to see, and I think that’s affected his ability to be as facile with answering the questions, as perhaps both sides wanted him to be,” he said.
NBC’s Andrea Mitchell agreed.
“He does seem to be frail in his grasp of the report that he himself oversaw,” she said, commenting during the break.
Journalist Matt Drudge even weighed in on Twitter, sharing a screenshot of his website banner headline “Dazed and Confused.”
Drug test everyone in Washington. Everyone! pic.twitter.com/ETcLrgwpJ6
— MATT DRUDGE (@DRUDGE) July 24, 2019