Former special counsel Robert Mueller, in the estimation of many, underwhelmed during his testimony Wednesday before the House Judiciary Committee, and President Donald Trump found a way to sum it up that also included a shot at his potential election rival.
"Sleepy Joe [Biden] is okay, but he's fading, I think he's fading fast," Trump said to Sean Hannity. "The only good thing about Mueller is that it made Joe Biden look like a dynamo."
Perhaps because Mueller did not speak publicly for the better part of two years, the former FBI director appeared noticeably unfocused, uninformed, and at times even inattentive to the questions being asked of him, leading to laments from Democrats that he didn't deliver the condemnation of Trump they were hoping for, and curiosity on the right about just how involved Mueller actually was in the investigation and final report.
Politico reported Thursday that word had been circling around Washington, D.C., leading up to the testimony that Mueller might not be up to the task. If they felt that way before, what they saw Wednesday certainly confirmed that.
"This is delicate to say, but Mueller, whom I deeply respect, has not publicly testified before Congress in at least six years," said former Obama strategist David Axelrod. "And he does not appear as sharp as he was then."
Trump himself reveled on Twitter in media, including liberal outlets, criticizing and expressing disappointment in Mueller's performance.
Mueller never really wanted to testify, as he indicated during a statement on his report's findings in May. Now, Democrats are thinking back to the questions about Mueller's fitness and wondering if that is at least part of the reason for his reluctance. Still, others feel that observers will look at the hearing and see what they want to see.
"I think this big event will leave us with a political Rorschach test," said Julian Epstein, former Democratic general counsel for the House Judiciary Committee. "Both sides will take away from it what they want to and we will be left tomorrow exactly in the same place we were today."