Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s lengthy but ultimately inconclusive testimony before Congress on Wednesday opened the door for Trump’s allies to revive conspiracy theories about the origins of, and motives behind, Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian collusion during the 2016 election.
The examples were numerous. During a Wednesday night appearance on Tucker Carlson, Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) — who used his time allotment during the hearing to tell Mueller that his investigation had led to innocent lives being disrupted — accused CNN of being a mouthpiece for Democrats and colluding with Robert Mueller’s team.
“[CNN executive] Jeffrey Zucker has long aspired to run for office as a Democrat, he’s bragged about it,” Stewart said. “So he’s decided to use CNN as a personal mouthpiece for political purposes.”
Carlson then falsely suggested the fact that a CNN team was on hand to film the FBI’s arrest of Trump acolyte Roger Stone at his Florida home earlier this year showed collusion between the network and Mueller’s team. “There was a CNN crew on the scene before dawn to humiliate Stone,” he said. “Armed federal agents barged into his home at 6 a.m. for purposes that have never been clear, even until this day.”
Stone was indicted in January on charges of lying to Congress and obstructing the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russian interference. He will go on trial in November.
More broadly, Wednesday’s hearing was an excuse for multiple Republicans to parrot a long-standing conspiracy, propagated by Fox News, that Democrats and the mainstream media were working together to bring down Trump.
As Media Matters noted, the crux of this narrative revolves around the false claim that a partially corroborated dossier by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele kicked off the Mueller investigation, that a FISA warrant targeting a Trump aide showed evidence of an anti-Trump conspiracy, and that the FBI were biased against Trump.
There’s no real evidence to support any of those claims, but that didn’t stop Republicans from parroting the talking points during Wednesday’s hearings. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), for instance, contended that Mueller “hired a bunch of people who did not like the president,” and also entered an op-ed — which Gohmert wrote himself for Hannity.com — into evidence. The op-ed argued that Mueller “has a long and sordid history of illicitly targeting innocent people that is a stain upon the legacy of American jurisprudence.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) took the baton from Gohmert, questioning Mueller about how much his investigation was reliant upon the Steele dossier on Trump, which originally was commissioned by Republicans. Gaetz has also previously peddled his tinfoil hat musings about the Mueller investigation on Infowars.
“We’re called conspiracy theorists because we see this cabal right in front of us,” Gaetz said to Alex Jones in January. “I don’t think there’s any dispute that there was extreme bias, but not only bias in their minds—in their actions, in their planning, and the things that they were doing.”
Of course, Mueller’s own answers during his Senate and House testimonies yesterday made the job easier for Republicans like Gaetz and Gohmert. Throughout his remarks, he regularly refused to answer questions which were not within the strict remits of his report, pushing back by saying only that he disagreed with Republicans “characterizations” of the report — even when Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) described the report as “you put it in a paper sack, lit it on fire, dropped it on our porch, rang the doorbell and ran.”