The Politics Daily: Sticking to the Script

A reluctant Robert Mueller didn’t stray far from the conclusions of his original report during his congressional testimony—as he’d always said he would. Plus: A new climate-change study.

Tom Brenner / Reuters
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What We’re Following Today

It’s Wednesday, July 24.

‣ The Senate passed legislation ensuring that a compensation fund for victims of the September 11 attacks will not run out of money. The president is expected to sign it.

‣ Puerto Rico’s legislature will begin the impeachment process against Governor Ricardo Roselló.

Here’s what else we’re watching:

Unprecedented: The massive eruption of the Indonesian volcano Mount Tambora in 1815, which ushered in a kind of natural change in climate, was one of the most significant events of the past 2,000 years. Now new research shows it pales in comparison to the global-warming consequences humans face in the modern era

Mueller in the House: “Over the course of my career, I’ve seen a number of challenges to our democracy. The Russian government’s effort to interfere in our election is among the most serious.”

That’s what former Special Counsel Robert Mueller told the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees in his opening statement today. You can read his full statement here.

(Andrew Harnik / AP / Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg via Getty / The Atlantic)

The White House had been prepared for the hearing to be either a “dud” or a “dumpster fire,” Peter Nicholas reported yesterday. Ultimately, the six hours of hearings ended up somewhere in between.

Some Democrats had hoped for a dramatic testimony that would help them sell the idea of impeachment to the American public. Instead, lawmakers of both parties faced a reluctant Mueller who “sidestepped, ducked, deflected, and generally frustrated” their lines of questioning.

Though Mueller didn’t offer much in the way of new information, some of today’s exchanges were revealing:

1. He acknowledged for Democrats all the ways that the president’s behavior met the three qualifications for the obstruction of justice.

2. And he directly contradicted the president’s repeated claims that he was “totally exonerated.”

Republicans, meanwhile, had an opportunity to elicit specific answers from Mueller to help bolster the “witch hunt” argument they’ve been making for months. They just missed the mark.


(Lucas Jackson / Reuters)

People in New York walk past a screen that displays a broadcast of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s hearing.

Ideas From The Atlantic

Racist Is a Tough Little Word (John McWhorter)
“Racist has become a ... protean term. Many of us think its meaning is obvious, but it has evolved quite a bit from its original signification over the past several decades.” → Read on.

Puerto Rico’s Governor Confirmed His People’s Worst Suspicions (Pedro Reina-Pérez)
“To assume that your leaders hold their constituents in contempt is dispiriting enough. To know that they do—to have documentary evidence right in front of one’s eyes—is even more painful.” → Read on.

The Tragedy of the Congress (David A. Graham)
“There’s basic agreement between Mueller and Democrats in Congress on the facts of what Trump did, but no one wants to be the person to do something about it. Mueller believes that Justice Department rules mean he cannot indict a president who committed a crime, that Congress must act, and—though he won’t say so directly—that impeachment is the tool Congress has.” → Read on.

What If They’re Not Coming for the Jews This Time? (David Frum)
“The Trump administration has more than fulfilled the wishes of many American Jews on issues from moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem to condemning Palestinian incitement to countering the Iranian nuclear program.” → Read on.

What Else We’re Reading

Justice Ginsburg: ‘I am very much alive’ (Nina Totenberg, NPR)

Trump’s efforts to free A$AP Rocky showcase his racist opportunism (Zak Cheney-Rice, New York)  (🔒Paywall)

Joe Biden wants to take America back to a time before Trump (Michael Steinberger, The New York Times Magazine) (🔒Paywall)

Overcoming the Mormon legacy on race (The Economist) (🔒Paywall)

About us: This newsletter is a daily effort from The Atlantic’s politics writer Elaine Godfrey, with help from Christian Paz. It’s edited by Shan Wang.

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