Robert Mueller spoke haltingly and quietly as he answered questions in public for the first time since being appointed to investigate Donald Trump more than two years ago.
The former special counsel, who made clear from the start that he didn’t want to go beyond the findings contained in his 448-page report, appeared subdued Wednesday as the hearing got underway, asking lawmakers to repeat their questions multiple times and even mispronouncing Trump’s name at one point.
House Republicans repeatedly accused Mueller of over-stepping his mandate during his 22-month investigation, and Mueller offered little or no defense to some of their attacks.
"Volume II of this report was not authorized under the law to be written," Republican John Ratcliffe of Texas said. "It was written in violation of every DOJ principle about extra prosecutorial commentary.”
Mueller didn’t say anything in response.
The 74-year-old Mueller’s frequent pauses and seeming difficulty answering lawmakers’ questions stand in stark contrast to his authoritative performance at congressional hearings during his tenure as FBI director, a position he held from 2001 to 2013.
On Wednesday, Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler twice had to ask Mueller to speak into his microphone.
Democrats didn’t press Mueller to read from his 448-report. Instead, they read passages from the report and simply asked Mueller to confirm that the reading was correct. Mueller didn’t help lawmakers by volunteering to elaborate.
Outside critics of Trump seemed unnerved by Mueller’s performance.
“This is delicate to say, but Mueller, whom I deeply respect, has not publicly testified before Congress in at least six years,” David Axelrod, a former adviser to President Barack Obama, wrote on Twitter. “And he does not appear as sharp as he was then.”
More Mueller testimony coverage from Fortune:
—Robert Mueller testimony: What we learned so far
—Trump goes on Twitter rant during Mueller testimony
—How 2020 Democrats responded to Mueller's testimony
—Trump 2020 campaign using Mueller testimony to raise $2 million
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