“If you were searching for a metaphor for the withering ideal of American public service — the one that puts country before party, truth before “narrative” or “brand” — it’d be hard to do better than the painful spectacle of Robert Mueller trying, in his halting voice, to sound the alarm on Wednesday about Russian subversion of American democracy.
It’s the same alarm that virtually every member of America’s intelligence and law enforcement communities has been ringing for the last three years: Russia attacked our elections in 2016 and is intensifying its efforts today. “It wasn’t a single attempt,” Mr. Mueller said. “They’re doing it as we sit here.”
Appearing before two congressional committees rife with politicians intent on using him to fill out their own versions of reality, Mr. Mueller seemed frail and at times even confused. But he successfully rebuffed nearly all efforts to draw him beyond the boundaries of evidence established in the report he delivered about Russian interference in the 2016 elections. The exceptions came when representatives actually showed an interest in Russian meddling and Donald Trump’s embrace of it. “I hope this is not the new normal,” Mr. Mueller said at one point, in response to a question about whether American candidates might now feel free to welcome foreign influence, “but I fear it is.”
The “sweeping and systemic” nature of that interference was the most unequivocal finding of Mr. Mueller’s 448-page report, though just as disturbing was the report’s meticulous recounting of the ways the Trump campaign accepted and even encouraged it.”